Essays And Criticism In Henri Matisse's The Red Studio By Clement Greenberg

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In an effort to describe the modernist painting, Clement Greenberg in his publication The Collected Essays and Criticism, makes simplified and exaggerated claims. Despite his best efforts, most of his assertions are shrouded in oversight and lack the necessary premises to be adjudged as an entirely objective and salient. His comments on modern art’s effects on human senses and relations with space, are one of said claims. He states: “The Old Masters created an illusion of space in depth that one could imagine oneself walking into, but the analogous illusion created by the Modernist painter can only be seen into; can be travelled through , literally or figuratively, only with the eye.” No one could argue with the first half of this assertion, …show more content…
The role of depth in inciting the other senses has been discussed, but what if there was no depth and the entire composition was as flat as it could be. Flatness relieves a painting of the sculptural effect, but does it only present a space inhabitable to man? As far as this assessment is accurate, Greenberg fails to factor in what type of space is represented in flatness. Henri Matisse’s The Red Studio is a very flat painting, with everything in two dimensions. This painting agrees with in the most part with Greenberg’s arguments of flatness and is very similar to The Night Café. They are different in one simple and unique way: the background and foreground are not differentiated. The red color of the entire painting blends these two planes into one flat plane depending on how one chooses to look at it. This flatness is even more emphasized at the left corner where there is no vertical line to show where the walls meet. Only flat and planar figures meet the eye as one physically guides his or her eyes through the space, agreeing totally with Greenberg’s assertions. But yet, through this method, Matisse creates a visual duality is created as objects are created from what lies behind, making the floor the object and the object the floor. This balance is just enough for one to still feel other cues other than just sight alone. This space depicted is in between complete flatness and 3D space. A sense of tangibility is created in the space, in that this totally ironed out space has form and figure. These then move one past the restraints of the eye to other senses so that not only does one visually guide oneself through the space but also experiences it as well. Pairing this painting with The Night Café, one cannot help but ask, what spaces and techniques was Greenberg referring

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