The Goldfish Bowl as artistic subject matter
With Interior with Goldfish and Goldfish and Palette Matisse returned to a recurring motif in his work: the goldfish bowl. Both paintings were featured in the exhibition.
Interior with Goldfish was painted in the spring of 1914. In 1912 he had painted a range of paintings featuring that particular motif. Here, as in the previous paintings, he depicted the goldfish in a cylinder-shaped glass container rather than in a traditional round bowl.
The advantages of the cylinder
The geometric shape of the glass cylinder gave the artist a stable form around which to arrange his composition. Its curves perfectly accentuate the cube shapes provided by the furniture and the room itself. The goldfish bowl is the pivotal point of the painting, linking the room with the view of the city.
A fragmented, transparent existence
In the autumn of 1914 Matisse once again returned to the subject of goldfish, painting the version entitled Goldfish and Palette. He began by repeating the earlier painting with one crucially important difference: He now included a depiction of himself. In a sketch that Matisse sent to fellow artist Camille Camoin, the artist himself, holding a palette, is clearly visible, but in the final painting he has depicted himself as an abstract figure. In the right-hand side of the painting we see suggestions of his legs and left arm and fragments of his torso and head, translated here into semi-abstract architectural shapes. Ultimately the rendition of his body became so abstract that many have doubted that anything of the artist is left besides his palette. The abstract traits make this painting one of Matisse’s strongest responses to Cubism.
Hear about more works in the audio guide.
The text is based on Jack Flam’s article Time Made Concrete. The full article is available in the exhibition catalogue, where you can also explore much more of Matisse’s art in a total of 28 articles.
You can buy the book in the museum art bookshop.