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April 20: boldness (Matisse again)

Matisse again.

"Sarah Stein"  1916  28x22" [San Francisco Museum of Modern]
“Sarah Stein” 1916 28×22″ []
 Part of his strength as an artist is that he doesn’t sweat the little glitches and infelicities that would drive someone less confident to go back and tweak this and that until the whole thing was reduced to bland decoration. For example, his portrait of Sarah Stein. The colors are dull. The blacks, especially, are muddy–the shadow under her chin is just a bit of black smudged into the flesh tone. But the ensemble is very powerful and convincing because of the strong, decisive shapes, the elegance of the drawing, and such touches as the line down the nose, which signals that literal representation is not the point.

“Self Portrait with Hand on Chin” 1906 []
If, having reached this stage, he had gone back to smooth out the shapes and clarify the colors, he would have reduced the piece from a vision to a formula exercise–like this engaging but too-systematic performance by the German Expressionist Paula Modersohn-Becker.