Henri Matisse is an artist who can help us
handle suffering and become more optimistic.
But to understand him best,
we need to think about
the role of “happy art”.
The cultural relic get nervous about cheerful or sweet art.
They worry that pretty pieces of work are in denial about
how bad the state of the world is
and how much suffering there is in every life.
Look at this picture of sailing boats, shooting about in the Mediterranean,
beyond the palm trees with a chintzy looking woman sitting on the sofa.
Has the artist forgotten that the world is filled with
inequality, corruption and war?
The fear is that we might get so absorbed in having a nice time
that we’ll forget about the bad things
and won’t trouble ourselves to do anything about them.
However, these worries are generally misplaced.
Far from taking too rosy in sentimental of view of things,
in general, we tend to suffer from excessive gloom.
Our problem is actually that we feel
debilitating the small and weak in the face of our troubles.
It’s because we feel overwhelmed and helpless
that will recall into ourselves.
Cheerfulness is an achievement
and hope is something to be celebrated.
Optimism is important
because many outcomes are determined
by how much of it we bring to the task.
It’s an important ingredient to success.
This flies in the face of an elite field
that skill is the primary requirement to a good life.
Yet, in many cases the difference between success and failure
is determined by nothing more than one sense of what is possible.
We stand in need of tools
that can help preserve our more hopeful dispositions.
And art, can help us.
One of the primary things art can do for us is
bolster our spirits and help us see the good in life,
so that we can face its challenges and bear its disappointment
这样我们就能以更大的韧性 决心 希望
with greater resilience, determination and hope.
The dancers in Matisse’s Dance
are not in denial of the troubles of this planet.
The picture should not be taken as a suggestion that all is well
and that women are always taken delight in each other’s existence.
But from within a normal
and that is a conflicted and imperfect relationship for reality.
One can look at the women as an encouragement.
They put one in touch with the blithe, carefree part of oneself,
which can help on coping with the inevitable rejections at humiliations.
Matisse Knew huge amount about suffering.
A glance at one of his self-portraits shows us as much.
His ability to harbor such complexity should build our confidence
他的复杂性 他那讨人喜欢的 充满希望的 迷人的工作态度
and the attitude of his pleasing, hopeful, charming work.
While Matisse knew all about tragedy,
his acquaintance with it made him all the more alive to its opposite.
He was born in 1869 into a relatively prosperous family.
He wasn’t supposed to be an artist.
His father was a grain and hardware merchant
and was keen that his son should have a lucrative,
safe and respectable career as a lawyer.
In his early 20s, Matisse became desperate to leave the law office
but his father was opposed.
Eventually, his father relented and allowed Matisse to study art
but only if he kept the most conservative and traditional styles.
The message from his father was:
keep painting like this and I’ll keep paying your allowance.
In order to develop as a painter of
bright, joyful and sensuous paintings,
Matisse had to face down his father, embrace poverty
and be reviled by his teachers and mentors.
In the years before the outbreak of the First World War,
Matisse began to build up a successful career.
He was selling a few paintings
and getting well-known in adventurous and artistic circles.
Just as he seemed to be making it,
the whole world started to fall apart.
Yet in the year of the Battle of the Somme,
Matisse painted the Window.
It’s not that Matisse didn’t care about the tragedies
the day his journey from Paris.
But that their looming presence intensified his sense of the loveliness
of a glimpse of a tree through the gap and curtains
or his delight in the pattern on the floorboards
or the sense of the freshness and charm of
a bowl of flowers and a simple but unpretentious apartment in the city.
It’s as if he is reminding himself and us
that these things still exist.
They haven’t been destroyed.
It’s not the work of somebody who’s indifferent.
It is created in recognition
of how easily we could be paralyzed by despair.
And a hint of light green leaves through the window
might speak kindly to us even today
when we’re overburdened by the sense of how much weight life has.
Later, there were more private traumas.
Matisse was diagnosed with intestinal cancer.
He was involved in a protracted and highly painful
legal dispute with his estranged wife
and still his cheerful colours didn’t waver.
In 1942 when Paris had fallen
and the German Sixth Army was advancing through Russia
towards the southern oil fields,
Matisse painted a number of paintings of dancers
with fabulous legs reclining on big soft armchairs.
The most poignant of his cheerful hopeful works
were created right at the end of his life
in around 1950 when he was in his 80s.
He had been an invalid for years,
mostly bedridden but occasionally able to get around in his wheelchair.
He knew he was facing death.
The deep blue and yellow
and the simple pattern of the stained glass windows
seemed to glow with delight and existence.
But Matisse wasn’t expressing a cheerfulness
he had recently experienced.
The vulnerable suffering great artist was attempting to ward off
his own fears of gloom and despondency.
And he was reminding us through his genius
that there is nothing as serious
as knowing how to hope.
Henri Matisse is an artist who can help us