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Fruit and Bronze

Painting, 1910, 91×118.3 cm
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Description of the artwork «Fruit and Bronze»

Matisse's still life Fruit and Bronze once served as backdrop for the portrait of the collector and philanthropist Ivan Morozov, created by Valentin Serov in 1910 (now it is kept in the Tretyakov gallery). Serov, by the way, had a rather complicated relationship with Matisse's work.
In a letter to his wife, he described in detail his mixed impressions of the Frenchman's paintings: "I feel talent and nobility in Matisse, however, there is nothing joyful about him, and what is strange, everything else becomes boring, making you interpret it differently. They seem tough, crooked and distorted; however, you don't feel like looking at the works of the artists with a traditional artistic approach that hang next to them."
And although Serov tried to keep Fruit and Bronze in Morozov's portrait as close as possible to the original, he still failed to convey the absolute lack of volume of the objects – vases, figurines, fruits – which makes them look more like a part of the pattern on the carpet than independent objects on its background. Serov even seems to have used some kind of linear perspective, of which there was no trace in Matisse's work. Apparently, it was not so easy for him to get rid of his well-established academic habits.
But Matisse had no problems with that. Just on the contrary, by that period of his career, the artist simply did not see the point in a realistic image: "It did not interest me to copy an object," he explained in the book Notes of a Painter, "Why should I paint the outside of an apple, however exactly? What possible interest could there be in copying an object which nature provides in unlimited quantities and which one can always conceive more beautiful? What is significant is the relation of the object to the artist, to his personality, and his power to arrange his sensations and emotions."
The compositional principle, according to which Fruit and Bronze was created, became one of Matisse's favorites. He created a lot of still lifes against the backdrop of an intricately laid out carpet or fabric occuping two planes of the picture, horizontal and vertical simultaneously (1, 2, 3). Matisse had a special relationship to fabrics because of his origin from the town of Bohain, famous for skilled weavers. Moreover, the artist got involved in a mystical story, considering rugs.
First of all, Matisse had a soft spot for Arabic culture and art, oriental ornaments and arabesques – and where else, if not on carpets, are they always in abundance? Besides, in the biography of the artist, the British writer Hilary Spurling describes a remarkable event.
In 1884 the Belgian hypnotist Donato performed in Bohain. At his sessions, he evoked different images in the volunteers from the audience, who began trying to collect imaginary flowers or drink water from the stream, which was not really there.
When it was the young Henri's turn, something went wrong: "...something seemed to snap and through the grass and the stream he saw the carpet on the floor. 'No,' he cried, 'I can see the carpet!' What happened at the "mass hypnosis session" became for Matisse a starting point: "However far fantasy might take me," he liked to repeat, "I never lost sight of the carpet."
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Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Still life

Style of art: Expressionism

Technique: Oil

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1910

Size: 91×118.3 cm

Artwork in selections: 20 selections

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