Pearls from artists* # 188March 23, 2016
* an ongoing series of quotations – mostly from artists, to artists – that offers wisdom, inspiration, and advice for the sometimes lonely road we are on.
HM: In order to create a work of art, you need an artist, an object, the work, and the audience. Indeed, where there’s no audience, there’s no artist. Renoir used to say, “No painters in Hamlet.” meaning that on a desert island you wouldn’t paint.
( I confess I am a little surprised. For my part, I find it difficult to believe that the true artist cannot work without hope. It seems to me that art is first and foremost an internal necessity, a need to escape from life. It is true that this is closer to the mystics’ point of view and that the artist, if he does not work directly for his contemporaries, at least looks forward to some future resonance. Nonetheless, I ask the same question again.)
PC: Even a true painter wouldn’t paint on a desert island?
HM: No… Painting is a means of communication, a language. An artist is an exhibitionist. Take away his spectators and the exhibitionist slinks off with his hands in his pockets.
The audience is the material in which you work. You don’t see the face of the audience. It’s huge, an immense mass. The public is – listen, it’s the man you encounter one fine day, who says, “Monsieur Matisse, I can’t tell you how much I love your picture, the one you exhibited at the salon,” and this man is a clerk who could never spend a red cent on painting. The public is not the buyer; the public is the sensitive material on which you hope to leave an imprint.
PC: Through the picture, the audience returns to the source of emotion.
HM: Yes, and the artist is the actor, the fellow with the wheedling voice who won’t rest until he’s told you his life story.
Chatting with Henri Matisse: The Lost 1941 Interview, Henri Matisse with Pierre Courthion, edited by Serge Guilbaut, translated by Chris Miller
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