The Green Line, 1905 - Henri Matisse - WikiArt.org 

                                 The Green line (stripe) or Madame Matisse by Henri Matisse.1905.


     Series Two Day one of“ Time, Creativity, Inner belief, Flexibility, Determination, and Perseverance.”

The Green Line, or Madam Matisse by Henri Matisse

Before I talk about This painting and how it connects to today. I would like to look at the words of my

theme and how “ Time, Creativity, Inner belief, Flexibility, Determination and Perseverance” are vital

ingredients to this time of change. I would also like to establish a baseline. That the route cause of racism

in all its forms is White Supremacy and greed!.

At this point I can hear many of my white democratic friends say, myself included” Well that's not me! “

I go to a multicultural church” I hold my brother and sisters hand during “the peace! ” I use politically

correct terms! “ “I believe in racial equality!””I am not Trump!!!!!!!”

But what if I was to say, that is good, but the time has come to do a lot more than these things! The time

has come to really LISTEN to your African American brothers and sisters and really hear from their lips

what needs to happen? That you do not have, to have done a course in “ inclusion” or “ racial equality,.”

or for that matter be a professor of one of these courses, to understand that the best lessons are learned by

putting yourself in a position of really being able to hear and LISTEN to what it means to be “Black” in

this world. I have friends who I know deeply care about these issues and demonstrate it in their lives. But

they still do not understand the subtle forms of racism, which are the most damaging and always have

been and hurt the worst!. Words like” I do not see color” For though we may not know the catchphrase

for subtle racism, or some may be further along the road of understanding racism. It is not our place to

attack others, but our place to guide that person/ guide ourselves to a place where they/we can really

LISTEN!
In my lifetime, as a child, the word” Nigger” was used to describe a shade of brown, and paper

“Golliwogs” (a repulsive Caricature of the black man) were collected from Robertson’s Jam to get statues

of the same! A time when Westerns and Wild Indians were still popular! As innocent children, we were

not aware of the damage of caricatures or the message of hate and that went behind them.

But I think it is important to understand, that not everyone was born into an enlightened time and that

even at this time, we are so far away from the truth! The ugly truth is that white supremacy and greed lie

more deeply within our veins than most of us are prepared to admit or see! That until we truly are

prepared to face this and admit it and LISTEN to our African American brothers and sisters talk, describe

their issues, CHANGE can not happen!

I hear you say, so what of that aging hippie Alison, that woman that was a child during hippy times? Who

does she think she is? What gives her the right to challenge us all? She likes to spend money on things,

she is not perfect! And, I would say” You are right! “


Which brings us to the significance of this painting. Prior to this painting “The Salon” which was seen as

the gallery of the artists of the day and had been for centuries the place where the art of worth was


" Still life" by Matisse 1898

shown. Showed paintings that today would replace photography. Color, up until this time was mainly

used in its realistic form, and highlights and shadows were achieved with tints and shades. (using white

or black added to the color). The paintings that Matisse had done up until this point fitted perfectly in this

mold. I have included one of Matisse’s early paintings to show this. As you will see this painting lacks

the very soul of Matisse, whose later works were all about color, patterning, movement, and shapes

singing from the canvas.

I can also hear you say, 'What if anything does this have to do with Matisse’s painting of ' The green line'

or ' Madame Matisse?" Perhaps nothing at first glance! He was White, he was not living in poverty!

Many people have prints of his work on their wall! How can you possibly compare the two?!

Henri Mattise was born in Cateau Cambrises in Northern France in 1869, exactly two hundred and fifty

years after slavery was bought to America. He was wealthy, but he was not owned! He did not have to

endure hunger and work long, hard hours every day! He did not have to know his wife had been raped by

his slave master and he would have to feed/and house his child! He never had to work as the property of

his masters without pay! He never had children that his master viewed entirely as the product of his

original investment! In comparison, his life was a very privileged one! He at first studied law, a career

that pleased his father. But this all changed after he discovered “the solace” and joy that could be found in

paints when his mother brought him some when he was recovering from appendicitis.

Which brings us to the significance of this painting. Prior to this painting “The Salon” which was seen as

the gallery of the artists of the day and had been for centuries the place where the art of worth was

shown. Showed paintings that today would replace photography. Color, up until this time was mainly

used in its realistic form, and highlights and shadows were achieved with tints and shades. (using white

or black paint added to the color). The paintings that Matisse had done up until this point fitted perfectly

in this mold. I have included one of Matisse’s early paintings to show this. As you will see this painting

lacks the very soul of Matisse, whose later works were all about color, patterning, movement, and shapes

singing from the canvas.

Paris had been shocked when the Impressionists first showed their work in May of 1874, in their own

gallery, not the established Salon, where artists were juried and only selective works were shown once a

year. “ Impressionist” was not a complimentary term. It was one that came from critics of their style and

Monet's painting “impression of a sunset.” To the critic, their work was unfinished. But when Matisse

and friends first showed their work in 1905, the critics were outraged! They called them” Fauve” its

literal translation meaning “Wild Pigs” Their brushwork was too loose! Their subject matter abstracted!

Their colors were outrageous to the eye not only of the critic but to most people's eyes at the time!

Gustave Moreau was originally seen as the group’s inspirational leader. He was a controversial professor

at the Ecole des Beaux-arts in Paris and a symbolist painter, who had died by the time of this exhibit.

But now with the advantage of distance and time, we can see that Gaugin, Van Gough. Cezanne and John

Russell were all influences that led Matisse and his fellow artists to paint this way and for Matisse to be

seen as the leader of the Fauves.

At the Salon Automne of 1905, Matisse and the other Fauve artist’s first showed their work. After this

Salon exhibition, Vauxcelles (a critic) described their work as” Donatello chez Les Fauves (Donatello

among the wild animals or pigs) contrasting the work of a contemporary sculptor that worked in a

Renaissance style to what he considered their style which was to him an abomination!

“A pot of paint has been flung in the face of the public,” wrote the critic Camille Mauclair.

Matisse was criticized the most especially for his paintings “ the green line,” or/” Madame Matisse” and

“The woman in a hat".

"The woman in a hat" by Matisse 1905
He had already been totally demoralized for his painting in the Salon des Independents in the spring of

1905, for his Impressionist landscape, “ Luxe, Calme et Volupté. Perhaps

Denis’s criticism was the most damning, “ You strip (the world) of everything that does not correspond to

the possibilities of expression provided by reason,’

Leo Stein’s recognition of Matisse’s work, "the woman in a hat" as an investment and purchasing it not

long after the exhibition must have helped Matisse to "scrap himself up off the floor" and keep going.
Even though Stein privately described this painting as” the nastiest smear of paint I had ever seen.” and

sold it to the Haas family in the 1950s. Matisse it seems had the last laugh about this painting! Some

years later he was asked what this woman was wearing, by a young artist. Matisse replied black in

words it was the artist's prerogative to make the clothing any color or colors he chooses!

So what if anything does this have to do with now? In my opinion a lot!

You see fighting against racism has never been an easy stance. The criticism you might receive may not

be as cruel as the words that Matisse heard, but believe me, there will be some that will criticize you! It

may not be as direct as the “ Nigger lover” of yesterday. It may be more subtle! Whisperings behind your

back. Promotions not given even though deserved. But what small price is that, when African Americans

have been suffering much larger hardships for centuries! If the end to racism is our belief, then we have

to be able to be like Matisse, and risk all if necessary to achieve this goal! We have to be determined, and

show perseverance to achieve our goal! We have to be patient, because change takes time, but also show

persistence! So what of creativity and flexibility?
If I could have a dollar for the number of times I have been told by people “ I do not have a creative bone

in my body!” I would be rich! I believe that term is often viewed too narrowly and attributed purely to the

arts. Because creativity, I believe can take many forms! It is the skill a mother uses to feed her family

when there is not enough food! It is the ability to continually reinvent yourself when you are turned away

from a job. These are skills we all possess, God-given skills but ones we rarely acknowledge. These are

skills that after the Coronavirus is done, many of us, including Whites, will have to draw on. These are

skills that African Americans have used, out of necessity since 1619.

And finally what of “ Flexibility,” how does this fit in? We have to be flexible in our understanding and

in our LISTENING TOO! We can not come to the table with preconceived ideas. We have to LISTEN,

really LISTEN to our African American friends, Because it is only when we do this, that CHANGE can

really happen!






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