Matisse reinvented the theme of the window, yet in the vast literature on the artist, Henri Matisse: Rooms with a View is the first book to show its full significance in his thinking about interior and exterior space. Henri Matisse: Rooms with a View, a book to be enjoyed time and time again for its insights, reveals not only the key role of the windowed interior in Matisse’s œuvre but also how it paved the way for some of the most radical abstract painting of the twentieth century.
Matisse studied and rearranged his rooms as persistently as Rembrandt studied his face. His living quarters usually doubled as his studio and engagement with these spaces produced not only singular masterpieces but also developed a theme as rich as the traditional landscape or portrait. Shirley Neilsen Blum analyses more than fifty paintings, starting with the early Studio Under the Eves (1903), a traditional darkened room with a small brilliant window, through Harmony in Red (1908), with its startling use of colour, pattern and line, to the more abstract work created during the First World War such as The Piano Lesson (1916).
After the war Matisse moved to Nice. Tall French windows overlooking the Mediterranean define many of the paintings from these years. By the late 1940s the window is so bound to the structure of the flattened space that it is barely differentiated from a painting or piece of tapestry hanging on the wall.
Henri Matisse: Rooms with a View culminates in one of Matisse’s greatest and most original works – the Chapel of the Rosary at Vence where, instead of imitating light and colour in paint, he manipulated actual light through the coloured glass of the windows.
With perceptive text and scores of superb illustrations, Rooms with a View reveals the key role of the window in Matisse’s œuvre.
Shirley Neilsen Blum has had a long and distinguished career as an art historian. She has taught at the University of Chicago, the University of California at Riverside and the State University of New York at Purchase. Her early interest was in Northern Renaissance art, but Professor Blum has also curated exhibitions and written about modern art, including co-authoring the exhibition catalogue The Window in Twentieth Century Art.