Pleasuring Painting: Matisse's Feminine Representations

Thames & Hudson

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John Elderfield

Hardcover | 15.5 x 1 x 21.7 cm | 64 pp

Thames & Hudson | 1996 | 9780500550281

In 1913, outraged by Matisse's painterly violations of the female body, students of the Art Institute of Chicago found him guilty of "artistic murder" and proceeded to burn in effigy three of his works, including Blue Nude of 1907. Since that time, Matisse's paintings of women have remained a source of deep controversy, feminist critics finding them an "assertion of virilty" whilst others have fallen back on purely formalist defences of the artist's "disinterested paint".

In this work, art historian and an expert on Matisse, John Elderfield, traces the development of Matisse's feminine representations from Carmelina of 1903-1904 through to the odalisques of the Nice period in the 1920s, offering a reinterpretation of some of the artist's best-known works. The author argues that Matisse was not, as his legend suggests, simply a painter of quintessentially male pleasures, but rather that he also used his female models as a means of self-analysis and identification. Eschewing reductive readings, Elderfield returns the images to their art historical sources and opens out the interpretative possibilities of these enigmatic paintings.

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