Saturday, 26 April 2014

Matisse, Collioure and sloppy journalism

Matisse's Luxe, Calme et Volupté, from 1904
Matisse is currently flavor of the month with the broadsheet media and more than one publication has taken the opportunity of the cut-outs exhibition at the Tate Modern to generate other easy copy related to the artist.

Thus a few days ago, the Independent decided to unveil a ‘5 ways to follow Matisse’ if you cannot get to London for the current show.

It is a brief list of travel suggestions for anyone wanting to set off on Matisse pilgrimages – but it turns out to have more than a few flaws.

The section on Nice is not incorrect – yet fails to mention that the Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence, which Matisse designed as a way of thanking a nun who had nursed him and is generally regarded as a masterpiece, is just outside Nice itself.

In other words, it’s a pretty basic omission if you’re set on cobbling together such a piece.

It happens that there are also a Musée Renoir and a Musée Marc Chagall in the vicinity too, making it a real haven for art lovers.

The Other Half and one of Marc-André 2 Figueres's frames
If you were heading down to that part of the world by rail or road and with art on your mind, Aix-en-Provence is hardly out of your way and is home to Cézanne’s studio, while Arles allows you to tread in van Gogh’s footsteps.

But my favourite part of the ‘article’ was an entry about Collioure:

“This exquisite fishing village in French Catalonia was the inspiration for the Fauvist movement, spearheaded by Matisse. The “wild beasts” were seduced by the brilliant play of light on the ochre buildings and blue Mediterranean. You won’t see Matisse’s paintings, but you can follow his trail marked by picture frames on the spots where he was inspired to paint Luxe, Calme et Volupté.”

I am neither an expert on Matisse nor an expert on Collioure, but oh dear: one paragraph and two howling inaccuracies.

First, those empty frames in Collioure were created and placed for a project by Catalan artist Marc-André 2 Fugueres, which ties in with his Erotic Theory of the Collioure Bell Tower.

This slender volume can be found in French, Catalan and English and is, if rather bonkers, none-the-less interesting, as I explained briefly way back in 2009.

Roofs of Collioure, 1905. There's no frame at this spot
It and the frames, however, have nothing to do with Matisse or the Fauves bar their being in Collioure and Collioure now being famous for Matisse and the Fauves.

Second, it’s wrong to suggest that Matisse painted Luxe, Calme et Volupté in Collioure or as a result of a visit there.

It was painted as a result of a visit to St Tropez in 1904 – the year before he first found his way south of Perpignan, where a relative of his wife lived, to this little spot of heaven on the Roussillon coast.

Now in the grand scheme of things, such errors are minor.

But it’s hard to believe that such sloppiness is unique and that it doesn’t illustrate a more general attitude toward the demands of 24/7, globalised news.

That’s even more the case as increasingly, proprietors and editors are turning ‘journalism’ into something that involves trawling Twitter for whatever some famous person or other said about such and such, or comment pieces that are intended purely as click bait to boost advertising revenue.

Matisse created plenty of wonderful works, but the one suggested by that snapshot of journalism in 2014 from the Indy is not a pretty picture at all.

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