Monday, May 10
"With colour one obtains an energy that seems to stem from witchcraft." Henri Matisse
Incredible documentary on BBC4 last night as part of their Modern Masters series, on the life and work of Henri Matisse. I've seen pictures of the chapel that he designed for Vence in Southern France many times before, and always loved the beautiful stained glass...but seeing it so close up in this documentary was amazing.
Matisse was an atheist. He once wrote, "My only religion is love of the work to be created, and total sincerity." But at the end of his life, recovering from an operation that had nearly killed him, Matisse was nursed by Monique Bourgeois, who later became a Dominican nun - Sister Jacques-Marie.
To thank her, Matisse built a chapel for her and her fellow sisters in the town of Vence in southern France, designing the project right down to the last detail - including the stunning stained-glass windows, the murals, and the altar statuary. It's still in use today. (from here)
The colours are at once calming and uplifting, and the simple abstract foliage motifs still look so contemporary. You can see his influence on all sorts of modern designers, ranging from Paul Smith to Orla Kiely to Dick Bruna (true!).
If you have an hour to spare, I recommend watching the full episode, but if not, just make sure you see the last 20 minutes that focus on the chapel and the stained glass. Alistair Sooke is utterly moved by being inside the chapel, observing the changing light coming through the stained glass, and the effect it has on him.
Click here to watch on i-Player(only available for a limited period!)