Style Court

Textiles, Art History, Gardens, and a Little Mental Traveling with Courtney Barnes 2006-2016


Man of the Cloth

[Detail, late-19th-or-early-20th-century North African pierced and appliqued hanging. Colored cotton appliqued to sackcloth. Matisse, His Art and His Textiles.]

Cotton was the fabric of Henri Matisse's life. Pierced and appliquéd North African cotton, that is, along with French printed cotton-linen, French silk, Tahitian barkcloth, African Kuba cloth (a velvety handwoven natural fiber textile), ikats, batiks, and Middle Eastern embroideries. As the grandson of French weavers, Matisse grew up surrounded by textiles and passionately collected fabric throughout his life. 

[Red, late-19th-or-early-20th-century North African pierced and appliqued hanging. Colored cotton appliqued to sackcloth. Matisse, His Art and His Textiles.]

The examples shown here are North African haitis. In the magical exhibition catalog, Matisse, His Art and His Textiles, these are described as "pierced textiles made of pieces of colored fabrics mounted on a length of heavy jute" mimicking the intricately carved, light-filtering wooden screens commonly seen in Morocco.

[Detail, late-19th-or-early-20th-century North African pierced and appliqued hanging. Colored cotton appliqued to sackcloth. Matisse, His Art and His Textiles.]

They represent just one type of the many varied textiles that informed Matisse's paintings and collages.

[Helene Adant, Matisse in his Vence studio with moucharabiehs, 1940s, Matisse, His Art and His Textiles.]

Also in the book, Hillary Spurling writes that texiles were such a force in the artist's life that "He could not live without them." She says that as a struggling art student he scraped together puny sums to buy interesting scraps from Parisian junk stalls, and by the end of his life his studio in the South of France was overflowing... "a treasure-house."

Spurling's description of Matisse's preference for decorating his own digs particularly grabbed my attention:

Matisse furnished all his homes and studios from junk shops with bits and pieces that caught his eye, battered unmatched chairs, faded hangings, threadbare carpets, 'noble rags' thrown out by more pragmatic housekeepers, and destined to take on a new and less transient glory on his canvases. They became the flimsy real-life partners of a luxuriant imagination.

Just for fun, since this is such an iconic warm weather image, here is Matisse's photograph of his assistant, Lydia Delectorskaya, around 1935. Later she wrote an in-depth account of Matisse's methods, l'Apparente Facilité, or in English, With Apparent Ease.

Links of interest: the Met's exhibition page and Inspired by African Aesthetics.

And TASCHEN's Henri Matisse: Cut-Outs- Drawing With Scissors.


A Perfect Gray said...

fascinating. thank you so much...

Style Court said...

A Perfect Gray, thank you for stopping by.

Today it finally felt like spring and I kept thinking about light filtering through these patterns.

Style Court said...

Also, click the studio picture to enlarge and check out that birdcage. Anyone else reminded of Anthropologie's beautifully art directed catalog?

Terry said...

I posted a bit about stained glass today. That's what I see in these fabrics. Love the table overloaded with plants overload.

Maureen Sullivan Stemberg, Interiors said...

Well Stated: "A Man of Cloth." Great article. Amazing how Matisse, according to Ms.Spurling, remark, "He could not live without them."It certainly appeared his passion for cloth...had a very deep impact on his art. Memo to self: A book order to be place in the morning.

Laura Casey Interiors said...

Matisse is one of my favorite artists and this is so interesting- thank you. I was in Anthropologie last weekend and I too see the connection. I bought a dress similar to the first and second textile images. It is amazing to learn about his inspiration and the influence these fabrics had on his work. I agree on book order to be placed. You are the source for what books I should be reading. Have a great weekend.

Style Court said...

Laura -- I bet you look great in that dress! Always happy to hear a post is helpful. I've got more book chatter coming up :)

Style Court said...

Terry, yes, I definitely see stained glass connection.

Ivy Lane said...

Very interesting post. I never knew about Matisse's obsession for textiles. Going to check out my Mother's art books when I see her tomorrow! Thanks for sharing!

** I have not seen the Anthropologie catalog either! must check that out or the store!!!

Happy Weekend!

Lynne Rutter said...

how lovely! i have been noticing a renewed interest in cutwork in fashion. i wonder if there is a connection?

Karena said...

I love reading anything aabout Matisse! Wonderful post!

Art by Karena

Plum Pretty Sugar said...


Emile de Bruijn said...

It makes you look at Matisse in a new way, knowing that he was interested in textiles (which I didn't). It is always fascinating when two art forms come together like that.

Unknown said...

I absolutely adore these textiles and especially those ornamental details. Therefore I am also fanatic about moroccan lamps which distribute wonderful patterns on the walls.

Anonymous said...

A french small and artistic editor, Bernard Chauveau, published delicate Matisse collages. He has done a great (and huge) work to find the right an perfect color to match the orginal Matisse one.