Cover image for Matisse and the subject of modernism
Matisse and the subject of modernism
Wright, Alastair, 1965-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
287 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 28 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ND553.M37 W75 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Oversize

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Focusing on the period 1905-1913, this provocative and groundbreaking new book refutes the popular view of Matisse as the painter of relaxed pleasures, the master of decorative line and sensuous color. Alastair Wright discovers a darker, more complex side to Matisse: an artist whose work, caught in the uneasy space between modernism and tradition, was fundamentally engaged with the most pressing of modernity's artistic and ideological debates. Presenting a series of brilliant and highly original analyses of Matisse's most important early paintings, Wright locates the artist within a wider cultural field in which the identities of modernism--and of its viewers--were highly contested. Wright offers a penetrating examination of the public response to Matisse's work, arguing that his early-twentieth-century audience found in his painting a deeply disturbing challenge to contemporary concepts of the self, of the nation, and of the West.

This sumptuously illustrated book positions the work of Matisse and a number of his contemporaries in relation to key aspects of modernity--the commodification of the individual, the dislocation of cultural identity, and the effacement of racial boundaries under the pressure of imperial expansion--and provides a compelling account of how these contradictory historical materials fused to give birth to Matisse's modernism. What emerges is a renewed sense of the rich complexity of an artistic practice suspended between the seductive potential of pure color and an always ambivalent engagement with tradition. Tracing the interplay between Matisse's painting and discourses of art and subjectivity, Wright offers a significant new reading of one of the central figures of early-twentieth-century modernism.

Author Notes

Alastair Wright is Assistant Professor of Art History at Princeton University.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Between Moderism and Traditionp. 7
Part 1 Me Tis
Chapter 1 Painting and the Ready-Made Pastiche at the 1905 Saklon des Indeacute;pendantsp. 17
Chapter 2 ""Trouble Reacute;tinien"" Fauvism, Madness, and the Schizophrenic Eyep. 55
Part II Metis
Chapter 3 Modern(ist) Memories Le Bonheur de vivre and the Stimulus of Traditionp. 93
Chapter 4 Negative Dialectics Matisse and thedeacute;coratifat the 1910 Salon d'Autimnep. 131
Part III Meacute;tisse
Chapter 5 Miscegenations Nu bleuand the Collapsing of Di