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Issue 113 - Matisse - August 2014

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Matisse's Chapel


   Late in life, Henri Matisse, generally thought to be an atheist, became friends with a Dominican Sister. 

   In gratitude for her friendship, Matisse designed the chapel for her convent and paid for its construction.

20100510 BBC Matisse
20100510 BBC Matisse

   This video, an excerpt from a BBC documentary, explores the charming -- and moving -- chapel, which Matisse considered to be his crowning achievement.


Past Issues


2-Creating Sacred Space

3-Leaving Footprints


5-Ordered Life

76-Vanier Visit

87-Wondrous Fear, Holy Awe

91-Crater Lake



101-On Reflections 

102-Morning Moments

104-Into Self Into God

107-First Home

108-NBA Championship

109-Not Nice

110-On Freedom 

111-Electronic Dependency

112 Robin Williams

Link to all past issues 


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Seeing Beyond the Lines

Last week, Jan and I visited the marvelous exhibit, "Matisse: A Life in Color," (a traveling exhibition from the Baltimore Museum of Art's Cone collection) at the San Antonio Museum of Art. Much of Henri Matisse's work is colorful, to say the least: paintings filled with bright, eye-popping colors, swirling lines and emotive energy.

In retrospect, however, what speaks most powerfully to me are his monochrome, minimalist drawings. A few sweeping lines, often Matisse Sketch unconnected, suggest not only a form, but also evoke a mood.  The object portrayed is more hinted at than presented. The artist trusts the viewer to fill in the gaps, to construct the scene, to see beyond the lines.

"I do not paint things;" said Matisse, "I paint only the difference between things."  In that difference lie mystery and beauty, insight and joy.

Between the lines, energy echoes.  Beyond the lines, meaning arises. Just as the electromagnetic forces of protons and neutrons hold all the world together, it is the relationship between things that gives rise to beauty and reveals truth.

Only by appreciating our relationship to others, only by finding our place in the created world, do we come to be truly ourselves.


                                                                                   - Bill


Nearly Religious Feeling
           I am writing a speech to present to my Toastmaster Club about the Henri Matisse exhibit, not as an educational experience for my audience, but, rather, so that I can try to get my mind around and put into words my impressions of the renown artist's amazing talent and wisdom. My giving a speech on the artistic works of Matisse is like a deaf person describing the voice of Andre Botticelli. Nevertheless, I will try to verbally relate the genius of his visual art as I saw it.

            Henri Matisse said, "What interests me most is neither still life nor landscape, but the human figure. It is through it that I best succeed in expressing the nearly religious feeling that I have toward life." Much of his art, in some way, brought to mind the nearly religious nature of his portraits. Up close, the subject in The Convalescing Woman was indistinguishable. From a distance, the image took form. Matisse's painting up close only gives us a look  at bold brush strokes and varied palette. At a distance, we clearly see the woman, his wife, Amelie, after giving birth to their son. Our understanding of God is sometimes like that. While we are in the midst of tumult, we hardly see God in our lives. Yet, looking back from a distance, we realize God was there all along.

             Matisse created multiple representations of several images: the Yellow Dress, the Blue Nude, and Laurette. It is, someone remarked, "as if Matisse is thinking aloud, paintbrush in hand." I wonder, if God had a paintbrush in hand, what would the images of us look like? After all, what interests God the most is the human person. Does God have a nearly religious feeling about us?

                                                --by Jan 


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Sincerely,  Bill Howden & Jan Davis
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