Born on New Year’s Eve of 1869, Henri Matisse, the great artist we know today, was actually an aspiring lawyer. However, his terrible encounter with appendicitis led him to pursue painting, a form he grew to fall in love with! On a side note, he is the perfect example of trusting the process. As the apprentice of Gustave Moreau, who was a Symbolist painter, Matisse focused simultaneously on studying the old masters and building his understanding of color. Today, some of Matisse’s most prominent works burst with color, one of my favorites being The Pink Studio. Sights of vibrant corals in conjunction with rich tones of amber yellows play with dark, majestic navy and bright greens. To observe Matisse’s work, is to fall in love with color.

However, today I wanted to focus on The Swimming Pool at the MOMA, a must-see for anyone in New York. Just two years before Henri Matisse’s death, he expressed to his assistant Lydia that “he wanted to see divers” on a blistering, sunny day. Subsequently, she took him to a pool in Cannes, in which Matisse came up with a better idea.

He brought the swimming pool indoors and transformed it from his imagination, onto a blank
canvas. His wonderful assistant Lydia was instructed to cover the walls of his hotel room in white paper—leaving room for the doors and windows of course—which Matisse then pinned his own cut outs of blue divers onto the wall.

The significance of this piece is quite illusive; not only does the spontaneity of the story resonate with the viewer, but Matisse’s ability to truly capture the fluidity of the divers. By simply using cutting techniques and immense precision, he brought a marvelous and dynamic flow into the room. It feels as if one who finds themselves standing in the middle of the room, can feel the energy that the dancing, floating figures bring to the space. Once again, the color, and moreover the choice of a single, vibrant color, tie into Matisse’s artistic style.

There is also a cache to the extent and great lengths that the MOMA went through to transport this French room to the gallery in New York City. After Matisse died, the walls were conserved through the process of tracing and unpinning the paper to eventually mount it upon a new surface. This 54 foot long installation, was then furthermore split into nine new pieces, after acquiring new burlap to mount it and replacing the original white paper. A fun fact is that while burlap is also a tricky material to work with due to its acidic nature; with time, it became evident that while it served as an excellent surface to present the piece, it ultimately damaged the cut-outs.

More notably, a viewer could also question why the white paper frieze, which could have been so easily substituted for the yellowed, aged paper, was not utilized in this circumstance. The conservators were very careful in their efforts to maintain the same relationship between the blue hues and frieze. Essentially, the truth is that the blue pigment also wore away with time and general aging, thus replacing it with fresh, new paper would drastically create a contrast too great to the eyes of the viewer. By maintaining the old materials and not altering the white paper, the blue divers are able to age gracefully with their background!

Lastly, this exhibition is wonderful to view on your next trip to New York because usually, rooms are not manipulated to adhere to the original manner the piece was first displayed. However, the MOMA conservators and architects designed this room to give the viewer the same experience as Matisse had when he walked into the room, himself. Take a moment to truly enjoy this installation, one that traveled over many continents over the last several decades, to be seen right before your eyes at the MOMA with the same vision Matisse had himself. 


  • When was the last time you were at the MoMA? 
  • Do you think of Matisse as anything but a painter? Or is he more of an engineer? His ability to paint with scissors and tell a story is remarkable to think about. 
  • Where do you find inspirations for your passion? 

 #HenriMatisse #theMoMA #Pool #Summertime #NYCStory



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