An Art of Balance

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The New York Sun

Today and tomorrow will be your last chances to see “Matisse and the Model” at Eykyn Maclean.

“As Matisse noted in 1939,” says the gallery, “he relied on his models to help him find expression for his shifting creative vision, and he looked upon them as partners in his work. Whether exploring the tensions between abstraction and figuration, fact and fantasy, other and self, his devotion to the human figure was a constant theme.”

The catalog essay was penned by no less than Hilary Spurling, the definitive Matisse biographer. In it she writes, “One of the stumbling blocks to any but the most superficial understanding of Henri Matisse has always been his own, much-repeated remark that human models meant no more to him than a spoon or leaf. Art history has taken him at his word and treated the women who posed for him as for the most part passive objects, victims, or punchbags, ripe by implication for sexual and financial exploitation. When I started work on his biography in 1990, Matisse was commonly cited as a prime example of male chauvinist pig.

“I might have realised the sheer absurdity of this proposition sooner if I had remembered how tenderly — with what delicacy and respect — he talked about the leaves he drew.”

“Matisse and the Model” runs through December 10 at Eykyn Maclean, Eykyn Maclean, 23 East 67th Street, between Madison and Fifth avenues, Floor 2, 212-772-9425,

Franklin Einspruch is an artist and writer.

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