La Bonheur de Vivre (The Happiness of Living), 1904-1905

Matisse The Joy of Life 1904-05-1

La Bonheur de Vivre, 1904-1905, oil on canvas.  Henri Matisse, 1869-1954.  The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia

 

In my late-Empire, classical, Plymouth Brethren, British education, I was taught that if something was not in a book, it did not exist.   Or that it was not worthy of literary inclusion.  And that the Bible, the primary instruction of life, is to be read literally and not metaphorically.

 

 

Matisse The Joy of Life 1904-05-1

La Bonheur de Vivre, 1904-1905, oil on canvas.  Henri Matisse, 1869-1954.  The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia

 

An admiring misreading, undoubtedly, of the gorgeous vastness of the works of Shakespeare (1564-1616); and of the King James Authorized Version of the Bible (first printing 1611).   Combined with the revolutionary insights of the Reformation (1517) and the arrogance of empire (British).

Imagine my surprise when I understood in late adolescence that these instructions are not useful for the creation of a contented life.

 

 

DSC09380-1

Dance 1, 1909, oil on canvas. A study for a painting commissioned by the Russian Sergei Schukin now in the Hermitage, St. Petersburg.  Henri Matisse, 1869-1954, French. MOMA, NY

 

 

Passing through stages of outrage, questioning, unravelling, discovery and enjoyment, I reached (but have not fully attained) the enjoyment of the is-ness of the created world both as it is and as it is represented by artists.

Leaving English shores for France.

France:  to the glories and skills of her painting and artisanal traditions, to the rigours, concision and discipline of her language and ways of thinking, to her practical traditions of the joie de vie, art de vivre and savoir faire to encompass many of the pleasures of the is-ness of life.

 

 

Henri Matisse drawing the mural The Dance, at the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia, with a bamboo stick, 1931

 

 

I could never abandon, of course, words even if I cannot make them all flesh.

I take care now to remember that there are words which are only fantasy.  And that there are worlds which the word has yet to encompass.

 

 

Pierre Matisse’s completed mural,  1931, the Dance, at the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia

 

 

For a long time to come until social justice has triumphed everywhere and every people has had their say.

 

 

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Dance 1, 1909, oil on canvas. A study for a painting commissioned by the Russian Sergei Schukin now in the Hermitage. Henri Matisse, 1869-1954, French. MOMA, NY

 

Our sun, at length, will go supernova and become a brown star and the life and words of our species on this planet will be done. 

 

 

Pierre Matisse’s installed mural, the Dance, the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia.

 

 

Until then on offer are la bonheur de vivre and dancing with Pierre Matisse, the Frenchman.

 

 

Matisse The Joy of Life 1904-05-1

La Bonheur de Vivre, 1904-1905, oil on canvas.  Henri Matisse, 1869-1954.  The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia

 

 

 

 

2 thoughts on “La Bonheur de Vivre (The Happiness of Living), 1904-1905

  1. Like you, I find joy in the arts. Tonight it was overflowing in the second half of Glyndebourn’s cinema transmission of Mozart’s completely sublime Clemenza di Tito . Only that music fits the generous act of forgiveness.

    Like

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