Saturday, June 23, 2007

Matisse in Morocco

Matisse was a chameleon painter. He changed styles many times during his career, and each time according to context. “He became an impressionist in Brittany, an adept of peinture Claire in Corsica, a proto-fauve in Toulouse, a divisionist in Saint-Tropez, a fauve in Collioure (Cowart, Jack et. al 30, Matisse in Morocco, Katy Anderson).”

It was likely for love of Zorah, the Moroccan prostitute, whom Matisse painted on several visits to Tangier that Matisse went from depicting women as primitive sexual objects to civilized beings worthy of respect. It is interesting to note that Matisse’s depictions of Zorah moved contrary to popular contemporary western attitudes about non-western cultures.

Matisse painted Zorah a number of times over his career. But he never once depicted her as a prostitute, but always as a cultured non-European woman, mannered and well-dressed in typical Moroccan wear. He showed her with hands folded delicately in her lap, fully clothed, standing or serving tea.

Unlike the western women to whom Matisse assigned a primitive sexuality in his paintings, Matisse did not exoticize Zorah with color and form. Instead the artist showed an interest in depicting Zorah as a respectable woman of an Islamic society.

The change of style has intrigued many a follower of Matisse’s work, including Jack Cowart who co-authored Matisse in Morocco: The Paintings and Drawings.
(The top image is titled Sur La Terrase, the right image Casbah Gate.)


Beatrice said...

Love Matisse's work! Nice choices here.

La tartine gourmande

Stephanie said...

So glad I found your site, we are planning a trip to Spain and Marakesh in October and am trying to glean as much information as possible!!!

Mary Jo Matsumoto said...

Matisse was always my favorite painter--so nice to see someone talking about these gorgeous Moraccan ones he did. Love your site!

karina said...

Great blog!
I love Matisse but I didnt know about the topic you writed. Very interesting

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