Step Inside Matisse's Studio And Discover His Inspirations

Matisse in the Studio, Royal Academy ★★★☆☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 16 months ago

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Step Inside Matisse's Studio And Discover His Inspirations Matisse in the Studio, Royal Academy 3
One of many still lifes by Matisse on display in this exhibition. © Private collection

What would it have been like to step inside the studio of Henri Matisse? In one corner, the artist is feverishly painting away while in front of him a model is draped across Islamic furniture. On the walls there's Chinese calligraphy, African masks and some of Matisse's own paintings.

The Royal Academy attempts to recreate the effect of being immersed in a studio in its latest exhibition. This small three gallery space is stacked full of drawings, paintings and a plethora of objects from Matisse's studio — everything from Algerian furniture to a French chocolate pot.

Visitors to Henri Matisse's studios were astonished, the experience was like walking into one of his paintings.

Matisse's studio had Turkish furniture he used to recreate this Moorish scene. © Philadelphia Museum of Art/Art Resource, NY

The show does a great job of showing how the cultural magpie Matisse used these items to inspire his works. Turkish furniture features in his painting of a harem, the angular features of an African mask are placed next to a painting of Matisse's daughter Marguerite where her features align with those of the mask, and a door lintel from the house of a Congolese chief inspires a drawing beneath it.

This chocolate pot is one of the items on display in the show and that featured in his works. Copyright Musée Matisse Nice

Packing so much into a small show is a risk as it arguably doesn't give each work the space it deserves; we think it was the right decision but it doesn't go far enough. It would have been great if the walls and floor were given the feel of a studio to make this a truly immersive experience. We want to feel we're walking into a lived-in space, but with white walls around us, the idea of being in a studio in France is an imaginary leap too far.

What results is an impressive concept for a show, containing some excellent works, but with some additional touches it could've been a great exhibition.

Matisse in the Studio is on at Royal Academy of Arts from 5 August until 12 November. Tickets are £14 and advance booking is recommended.

Last Updated 07 August 2017