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Did Matisse Ever Reach “True Painting”?
Sometime in the early 1930s, Henri Matisse hired a photographer to document his paintings at different stages of development. These photographs became signposts along the road toward what Matisse wanted to achieve in his painting and served not just as reminders, but also as alternative paths for consideration and reconsideration. In Matisse: In Search of True Painting, which runs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art through March 17, 2013, Matisse’s well-known recursive process is once again displayed, but for the first time art historians question why the master worked this way. “Taken as a whole,” curators Dorthe Aagesen and Rebecca Rabinow write in the introduction to the catalog to the exhibition, “it reveals Matisse as an artist who conducted a dialogue with his earlier works, someone who continually questioned himself and his methods in order to, as he put it, ‘push further and deeper into true painting.’” By the end of the exhibition, the question remains for us, as for him, if Matisse ever reached his destination.
Aagesen and Rabinow see the origin of Matisse’s practice in his academic training copying the Old Masters. “The traditional practice of copying supplied Matisse with both a conceptual basis and a methodological background for working with repeated images,” they explain. Placing two still lifes by Matisse from 1899 side by side, we can see one done in the style of Cezanne and the other in that of Signac—the two artists most powerfully present in Matisse’s mind at the time. Matisse’s early mimicry, however, put into question his originality. “I have never avoided the influence of others,” Matisse countered. “If the fight [with the Old Masters] is fatal and the personality succumbs, it is a matter of destiny.” Matisse met the anxiety of influence head on, believing that what influences didn’t kill his painting would only make it stronger.
From paired works, Matisse soon moved on to series of works similar to the series of Impressionist artists such as Monet and Renoir, both of whom he sought out and met in 1917. But, “[u]nlike Monet,” Claudine Grammont writes in the catalog, “who tends in his series to reproduce even the most subtle variations of atmosphere and light without varying the technical approach to the motif, Matisse tries out various modes of representation.” Matisse could do a simple view of the Pont Saint-Michel in multiple styles (several of which are in the show), tinkering with brush strokes in this one or pushing the envelope in terms of color in another. The selection of works in the exhibition really allows you to see Matisse’s racing mind at work as early as the late 1890s. By the late 1910s and early 1920s Matisse settles in to the series subjects that would dominate the rest of his career: still lifes, odalisques, and hotel interiors.
Matisse in the 1930s, thanks to photography, continued his experimental evolution by turning a single painting into a series of sorts. “For the artist and anyone else fortunate enough to see them,” Aagesen and Rabinow comment, “these photographs have the capacity to multiply one canvas into a series, thereby adding a dimension of time and process to the final painting.” Matisse’s first post-World War II show in 1945 featured several canvases surrounded by these step-by-step photographs. In a telegram to the gallery owner, Matisse stressed the “didactic character of this exhibition,” which he felt showed how, “[f]ollowing my personal logic, I continue from one state to another toward conclusive and definitive results.” Where others might hide the process of painting, Matisse placed it front and center, hoping that it would teach the public the importance of process and “personal logic” to the painter.
But why was it so important to Matisse? Alastair Wright evokes the literary theory of Fredric Jameson as a possible explanation. Jameson argues that a signifier can never have a stable sense, that is, a sign can never be limited to just one meaning. That instability can either paralyze you with doubt or it can energize you with possibility. Wright sees Matisse “celebrating” the instability of modern art’s multi-movement approach and experiencing “a sense of euphoric intensity” about process that he longed to share. Aagensen views Matisse’s process photographs as acting “much the same way as the frames of a film do,” thus creating “a ‘filmic’ painting—an image whose contents were governed by its genesis.” In other words, a Matisse looks the way it does precisely because of the whole history of its experimentation and not just because of its final presentation. Cecile Debray, in an analysis of Matisse’s last interiors, quotes Matisse from 1946, years after a brush with death from intestinal cancer, looking back on that experience and calling it “a liberation,” after which “life was gratis from [then] on.” Perhaps Matisse always felt that liberation, which was boosted by a moment in the shadow of death. One “true” explanation for Matisse’s purpose for his process proves as elusive as “true painting” itself.
Matisse: In Search of True Painting is one of those shows in which reading the catalog is essential to realize all the subtleties that a trained eye working for a lifetime gathers. The short chapters in the catalog serve as case studies each peeling away a different layer of the mystery of Matisse. Rabinow and Isabelle Duvernois look at two versions of a portrait of a young sailor and link the “forced deformations” to Matisse’s appreciation for African sculpture. Later, Rabinow and Duvernois take two almost identical versions of the same subject and note how when Matisse “shifted himself a few feet to the right and turned to view his subject on a diagonal” that small change generated “a dynamic energy and a more traditional sense of depth.” Jack Flam explains how Matisse plays with time itself in the simple portrayal of goldfish swimming in a fishbowl in an otherwise still, almost timeless room. Flam later demonstrates how Matisse’s juxtaposition of women with plants or flowers creates a “transfer of linear energy” by “[k]eeping the viewer’s eye in continual motion” in pursuit of a “main subject… diffused over the entire surface of the canvas.”
In one of the more interesting explorations, Doina Lemny examines The Dream (shown above, right) in the context of the 15 photographic states documented (the earliest of which is shown above, left). “Preoccupied at the time with ‘liberating’ his paintings from perspective,” Lemny argues, “Matisse treated the embroidered areas on the blouse almost as decoupage.” Thus, the woman’s features take on a secondary role to the pattern on her garment. Borrowing a phrase from Flam, Demny presents The Dream as a prime example of Matisse’s “metaphysics of decoration” in which a simple pattern could take on a powerful life of its own and dominate what could have been a simple figure study.
This metaphysical Matisse flows throughout the exhibition. Matisse had an almost Zen-like dedication to the process rather than the result. The discipline to pursue some elusive truth must have required a religious zeal for art. And yet, the personality of the painting remains—the connecting, continually improvising thread that resists the personlessness of Zen. Focusing on Matisse’s process and its documentation in paint and photography made me think of the seemingly endless versions of songs by jazz saxophonist John Coltrane, who seemed as much in pursuit of true music as Matisse was of true painting. If there’s such a thing as Zen Jazz, Matisse and Coltrane would have practiced it.
“I have set out on a very hard road that seems troublesome to me because of the little time that my age will grant me,” Matisse wrote in his later years. “And yet, to be at peace with myself, I cannot do otherwise.” Matisse needed to pursue “true painting” to be truly Matisse. Anything less than wanting it all could never satisfy him. Matisse: In Search of True Painting may not answer the questions it raises in any satisfying way, but it will raise your awareness of the dedication of this artist (and any artist) who strives for the unattainable.
[Image: (Left) Reprint of archival photograph documenting Henri Matisse's process of painting The Dream, 1940. January 7, 1940. Reprint of archival photograph. 31 1/2 x 26 15/16 in. (80 x 68.4 cm) (Frame) Image: 23 1/4 x 18 5/8 in. (59 x 47.4 cm). © 2012 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. (Right) Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954). The Dream, 1940. Oil on canvas. 31 7/8 x 25 9/16 in. (81 x 65 cm). Private collection. © 2012 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.]
[Many thanks to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for providing me with the images above and other press materials related to Matisse: In Search of True Painting, which runs through March 17, 2013. Many thanks also to Yale University Press for providing me with a review copy of the catalog to the exhibition.]
Sallie Krawcheck and Bob Kulhan will be talking money, jobs, and how the pandemic will disproportionally affect women's finances.
Can an orgasm a day really keep the doctor away?
- Achieving orgasm through masturbation provides a rush of feel-good hormones (such as dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin) and can re-balance our levels of cortisol (a stress-inducing hormone). This helps our immune system function at a higher level.
- The surge in "feel-good" hormones also promotes a more relaxed and calm state of being, making it easier to achieve restful sleep, which is a critical part in maintaining a high-functioning immune system.
- Just as bad habits can slow your immune system, positive habits (such as a healthy sleep schedule and active sex life) can help boost your immune system which can prevent you from becoming sick.
How masturbation affects your brain...<p>Orgasms are a very common human phenomenon. The physical and mental health benefits have been researched frequently as a result, and yet, there is still so much to be learned about how our bodies and brains react to the chemicals and hormones released during and after experiencing this type of sexual release.</p><p>"The amount of speculation versus actual data on both the function and value of orgasm is remarkable" explains Julia Heiman, director of the <a href="https://kinseyinstitute.org/" target="_blank">Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction</a>.</p><p>Masturbation causes a rush of <a href="https://www.webmd.com/mental-health/what-is-dopamine" target="_blank">dopamine</a>, which is a chemical that is associated with our ability to feel pleasure. Along with the rush of dopamine that is released during an orgasm, there is also a release of a hormone called <a href="https://www.livescience.com/42198-what-is-oxytocin.html" target="_blank">oxytocin</a>, which is commonly referred to as the "love hormone."<br></p><p>This concoction of chemicals does more than just boost our mood, it also can play a key role in decreasing stress and promoting relaxation. Oxytocin decreases <a href="https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/what-is-cortisol" target="_blank">cortisol</a>, which is a stress hormone that is usually present (in high volumes) during times of anxiety, fear, panic, or distress. </p><p>According to BDSM and fetish researcher <a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/dr-gloria-brame-colbert-ga/278388" target="_blank">Dr. Gloria Brame</a>, an orgasm is the biggest non-drug induced blast of dopamine that we can experience. </p><p>By boosting the oxytocin and dopamine levels and subsequently decreasing our cortisol levels, the brain is placed in a more relaxed, euphoric, and calm state. </p>
Masturbation boosts your immune system and raises your white blood cell count.<p>How do those effects on the brain from reaching orgasm translate to boosting our immune system and making our body healthier?</p><p>The increase of oxytocin and dopamine that causes a decrease in cortisol levels can help boost our immune system because cortisol (well-known for being a stress-inducing hormone) actually helps maintain your immune system if released in small doses. </p><p>According to <a href="https://www.health24.com/Sex/Great-sex/incredible-health-benefits-to-masturbating-20181030-2" target="_blank">Dr. Jennifer Landa</a>, a hormone-therapy specialist, masturbation can produce the right kind of environment for a strengthened immune system to thrive. </p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15316239" target="_blank">A study</a> conducted by the Department of Medical Psychology at the University Clinic of Essen (in Germany) showed similar results. A group of 11 volunteers were asked to participate in a study that would look at the effects of orgasm through masturbation on the white blood cell count and immune system.</p><p>During this experiment, the white blood cell count of each participant was analyzed through measures that were taken 5 minutes before and 45 minutes after reaching a self-induced orgasm. </p><p>The results confirmed that sexual arousal and orgasm increased the number of white blood cells, particularly the natural killer cells that help fight off infections. </p><p>The findings confirm that our immune system is positively affected by sexual arousal and self-induced orgasm and promote even more research into the positive impacts of sexual arousal and orgasm. </p>
Masturbation can ease and prevent pain, which allows you to achieve the restful sleep that helps your immune system stay strong and healthy.<p>The benefits of masturbation have long been debated, but the more research that is done on the topic the more we understand that there are many positive reactions that happen in our bodies and brains when we orgasm.</p><p>Orgasms can help prevent or mitigate pain, which boosts the immune system, preventing cold and flu symptoms. </p><p>According to neurologist and headache specialist Stefan Evers, about one in three patients experience relief from migraine attacks by experiencing sexual activity or orgasm. Evers and his team <a href="https://www.livescience.com/27642-sex-relieves-migraine-pain.html" target="_blank">conducted an experiment</a> with 800 migraine patients and 200 patients who suffered from cluster-headaches to see how their experiences with sexual activity impacted their pain levels. </p><p>The study showed that 60% of migraine sufferers experienced pain relief after participating in sexual activity that resulted in orgasm. Of the cluster-headache sufferers, about 50% said their headaches actually worsened after sexual arousal and orgasm. </p><p>Evers suggested in his findings that the people who did not experience pain relief from migraines of headaches during their sexual activity did not release as large amounts of endorphins as those who did experience pain relief. </p><p>According to <a href="https://www.sharecare.com/health/chronic-pain/chronic-pain-affect-immune-system" target="_blank">rheumatologist Dr. Harris McIlwain</a>, people who suffer from chronic pain have immune systems that are simply not functioning at full capacity - therefore, alleviating pain (through orgasm, as an example) can help boost the immune system. </p><p>Orgasms can also promote relaxation and make it easier to fall asleep. Serotonin, oxytocin, and norepinephrine are all hormones that are released during sexual arousal and orgasm, and all three are known for counteracting stress hormones and promoting relaxation, which makes it much easier for you to fall asleep.</p><p>There are <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1233384" target="_blank">several studies</a> showing that serotonin and norepinephrine help our body cycle through REM and deep non-REM sleeping cycles. During these sleep cycles, the immune system releases proteins called <a href="https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/how-sleep-affects-your-immunity" target="_blank"><span id="selection-marker-1" class="redactor-selection-marker"></span>cytokines<span id="selection-marker-2" class="redactor-selection-marker"></span></a>, which target infection and inflammation. This is a critical part of our immune response. Cytokines are both produced and released throughout our bodies while we sleep, which proves the importance of a good sleep schedule to a healthy immune system.</p>
Masturbation promotes a high-functioning immune system; a healthy immune system prevents cold and flu.<p>The immune system is a balanced network of cells and organs that work together to defend you against infections and diseases by stopped threats like bacteria and viruses from entering your system. While there are many things we need to do to keep our immune systems functioning at optimal levels, masturbation (or other means of achieving orgasm) has proven to have positive effects on the immune system as a whole.</p><p>Just as bad habits (such as an inconsistent sleep schedule or harmful chemicals in your body) can slow your immune system, positive habits (such as a healthy sleep schedule and active sex life) can help boost your immune system. </p>
The word "learning" opens up space for more people, places, and ideas.
- The terms 'education' and 'learning' are often used interchangeably, but there is a cultural connotation to the former that can be limiting. Education naturally links to schooling, which is only one form of learning.
- Gregg Behr, founder and co-chair of Remake Learning, believes that this small word shift opens up the possibilities in terms of how and where learning can happen. It also becomes a more inclusive practice, welcoming in a larger, more diverse group of thinkers.
- Post-COVID, the way we think about what learning looks like will inevitably change, so it's crucial to adjust and begin building the necessary support systems today.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the perception of selfishness among many.
- Selfish behavior has been analyzed by philosophers and psychologists for centuries.
- New research shows people may be wired for altruistic behavior and get more benefits from it.
- Crisis times tend to increase self-centered acts.