Matisse’s Sculpture: The Pinup and the Primitive

ISBN: 9780300171037
Artist(s): Henri Matisse
Author(s): Ellen McBreen
Format: hardback
Year published: 2014
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publisher Location: London
Total Pages: 288
Illustrations: Illustrated in B&W throughout


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Long perceived as a side pursuit to his celebrated painting career, Henri Matisse’s sculpture receives an overdue critical examination in this book. Beginning in 1906, soon after the artist acquired his first African sculpture, Matisse found inspiration in erotic and ethnographic photography, which had become inexpensively mass-produced thanks to advances in halftone technology. Working with these two radically different depictions of the body – one hand carved, the other mechanically made – was a foundational method for Matisse and crucial to the development of his pre-World War I abstraction. Far from a simple narrative of the artist ‘discovering’ Africa, the highly original readings of ‘Matisse’s Sculpture’ plot new coordinates of study for early twentieth-century primitivism. The book examines the larger constructs of thought at the time, with a penetrating analysis of anthropology, popular erotica, and the visual culture of French colonialism. In addition, it repositions Matisse’s sculptural practice, particularly in regard to its investigations of race and sexuality, as a cornerstone of his prolific career.


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