Henri Matisse (1869-1954), La Serpentine, 1909

© Henri Matisse (1869-1954), La Serpentine, 1909.

Although Henri Matisse primarily saw himself as a painter, sculptures also constitute an important part of his oeuvre. Ever since he created his first bronze figure around 1900 he continued working within both media. Sculpture helped him sort out his feelings and cultivate his ideas, which were subsequently transposed to painting. Matisse frequently used his sculptures directly as motifs for his paintings.

The image of woman
La serpentine is one of the boldest and most original sculptures Matisse ever made. It began as a naturalistic representation of a woman, but Matisse gradually made every shape more slender, making the rhythm of the body easily perceptible from every angle. The result is a light and airy figure that serpentines its way through space like a rhythmic arabesque where solid mass and empty space are equally important elements. Matisse was not aiming for anatomical accuracy; he was interested in the image of woman.

The figure as a vision
The figure should be read as a vision rather than as a tangible presence, something that is accentuated by the complete lack of detail. The figure appears to be seen from a distance no matter how close you are to it. Moreover, the base frames the sculpture on two sides as a reference to the two-dimensional picture.

Updated: 26.apr.2018
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