Ripest Matisse

Jed Perl in The New Republic:

StilllifeMatisse’s vision is at its ripest and most extravagant in the exhibition that has just opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In the small-sized yet big-scaled canvases that are at the core of this show, Matisse works his own variations on the heavy patterning and clashing rhythms and super-charged colors that Delacroix had brought into French art a hundred years earlier, with his Women of Algiers. These studies of women in richly–wildly, crazily–appointed interiors, which mostly date from the 1920s, are not necessarily the Matisses that have been favored by the high priests of modernism–nothing of this kind was included in the selection on view when the Museum of Modern Art reopened last fall–but they’re surely among the greatest high-wire acts of twentieth-century art. Matisse dresses (or at least partially clothes) his models in gorgeously over-the-top outfits. Then he surrounds these women with a strident array of rugs and wall hangings and flowers as well as pieces of playfully shaped pottery and metalwork and furniture. No artist has ever flirted with kitsch so insistently–and transcended it so completely.

More here.