[Francis Naumann]
Sophie Matisse : Pentimenti
March 14 - April 30, 2008

Effusion, 2007
Oil, acrylic, and gouache on linen, 43 x 60 inches

“The decorative for a work of art is an extremely precious thing. It is an essential quality. It is not pejorative to say that the paintings of an artist are decorative. … The characteristic of modern art is to participate in our life. A painting in an interior spreads joy around it by the colors, which calm us. The colors obviously are not assembled haphazardly, but in an expressive way. A painting on a wall should be like a bouquet of flowers in an interior.”

-Matisse, interview with Léon Degand, 1945

Dolce, 2008
Oil, acrylic, and gouache on linen, 43 x 60 inches

Red Dress, 2008
Oil, acrylic, and gouache on linen, 43 x 60 inches

“I find that it’s a very good solution for a period like ours, when one cannot continue to do oil painting, which, after four or five hundred years of existence, has no reason to go on eternally… The painting is no longer a decoration to be hung in the dining room or living room. We have thought of other things to use as decoration. Art is taking more the form of a sign, if you wish; it’s no longer reduced to a decorative role. This is the feeling that has directed me all my life.”


– Marcel Duchamp, interview with Pierre Cabanne, 1966

Blue Note, 2007
Oil, acrylic, and gouache on linen, 43 x 34 ¼ inches

Smok’n, 2007
Oil, acrylic, and gouache on linen, 45 x 35 inches

St. John the Baptist, 2007
Oil, acrylic, and gouache on linen,  46 x 30 inches

Henri Matisse and Marcel Duchamp are the pentimenti of Sophie Matisse’s art and life. Although she never had the opportunity to meet either man personally, their presence persists in her work. This presence is often remote, at times, barely detectible, as in the still-visible tracery emerging from any undercoat of paint. Like her great-grandfather Henri Matisse, she embraces the decorative potential of her pictures. Like her step-grandfather Marcel Duchamp, she rejects the notion that decoration is all they need to offer. Indeed, if she dreams of anything, it is to reconcile the two statements presented above into a singular, harmonious visual entity—a work of art that not only pleases our senses, but that also challenges our intellect. In the end, she never loses sight of the fact that this whole process is only a game, but not just any game, one whose complexities and aesthetic qualities are suggested in the ribbons of paint that permeate her pictures.

Francis M. Naumann

Fish R Jumpn, 2007
Oil, acrylic, and gouache on linen, 43 x 60 inches

All images © 2008 Sophie Matisse/Artist’s Rights Society (ARS), New York