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Take inspiration from the bold, vibrant work of Matisse

por Barney Macdonell (2019-10-08)

Matisse was a collector of treasures. He filled his home and studio with beautiful things, which inspired and appeared in many of his paintings.

The artist would shift and re-arrange his objects, ‘until I found myself brought up short by something about the ensemble that delighted me'.

Blooming still life: Safrano Roses at the Window, 1925 by Henri Matisse

In the new exhibition, ‘Matisse in the Studio' which opens at London's Royal Academy of Arts today an enormous photograph shows Matisse at his home, Villa Le Reve in Vence, on the French Riviera.

He sits at his desk on top of which are several vases and a champagne bottle filled with flowers. Beneath his feet are rugs, pattern atop pattern.



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No pared back interiors for the great man. He revelled in the decorative - vivid colours, eye-catching textiles and intricate antiques. Visitors to his studio where said to feel as if they'd wandered into one of his paintings.

Go to this exhibition and you'll want to return home via the florists with armloads of blooms. You might even start to consider hanging fabrics on your walls.

Somehow Matisse made a space appear both dizzyingly intimate and expansive. Which is a lesson for those of us who live in small flats and houses. 

Exuberant colours and patterns can, as designer Nina Campbell puts it, make a modest space seem ‘jewel-like and brighter.'

Pattern upon pattern: The Les Reves collection of prints by Nina Campbell were inspired by Matisse's palette

Her new collection of fabrics, Les Reves, which are available from August 29, are influenced by Matisse's palette, which she describes as ‘colourful but not brash' with a richness that still manages to be soft.

Campbell looked to his paintings featuring vases of peonies, poppies and red and white striped tablecloths as well as photographs of the artist in his studio.

The results are a joyful jug print, Collioure (£75 per m, osborneandlittle.com) which is especially Matisse-like in the red and pale blue colour way and brims with painterly, hand-drawn shapes. 

Campbell has picked out one of the jug patterns for the simple, curvy diamond print Beau Rivage (£65 per roll of wallpaper). You could combine both, layering prints, without making yourself go cross-eyed. 

The jeweller, Solange Azagury-Partridge, who also designs interiors, is another advocate for pattern. ‘It allows your eye to travel around the room and actually makes it look bigger,' she says.

Daring: Solange Azagury-Partridge is not afraid to mix different patterns and 토토박사 colours in her vibrant Somerset home

Her country home in Bruton, Somerset is a carnival of prints. One room is dedicated to paisley, another to chinoiserie and entire walls are covered in fabric, most of which she buys on Ebay.

The exhibition is also a reminder of the power of favourite possessions and how something precious can lift a room.

Those of us who like rootling through antique shops can relate to the thrill Matisse felt when he found the 19th-century Venetian chair that looks like a shell and has fish-like creatures for arms. 

‘When I found it in an antique shop, a few weeks ago, I was bowled over. It's splendid. I'm obsessed with it.' He drew it again and again.

Similarly the butternut squash shaped chocolate pot, a wedding gift to Matisse and his wife Amelie, which appears in many of his paintings.

Antique piece: The Chocolate pot, France, 19th-early 20th century that appeared in many of Matisse's paintings

There are all sorts of ways to add personality to your home. ‘Some things that are inspirational can be quite junky,' says Nina Campbell. 

She mounted a set of fish knives with prettily patterned handles in Perspex to hang in the restaurant at the Capital Hotel in Knightsbridge.

Interesting coffee pots or vases will perk up a room. Dress up a dowdy stovetop with Tom Dixon's shiny brew coffee maker and milk pan, (£135 and £85, tomdixon.net). 

Or fill a colourful Folklore jug with flowers (£45, shop.royalacademy.org.uk).

Decorative: Prettily patterned tableware by Folklore available at the Royal Academy

If you're a fan of Matisse's bold cut-outs, a technique he developed in what he termed his ‘second life,' then look to the work of designer Genevieve Bennett who laser-cuts leather to arresting affect for her hand-sculpted artworks. 

‘Camelia' was inspired by the carved wood designs by Grinling Gibbons for Hampton Court Palace, (prices and colours vary, genevievebennett.com).

Designer illustrator Marcus Walters uses cut papers and collage to create his artworks and is launching an exclusive range of mugs for Heals in September. ‘I love the tactile nature of cutting and the resulting imperfections', says Walters.

Cut-above: One of Matisse's cut-outs, Panel with Mask, 1947

It would be nice to have a Matisse on the wall but most of us will have to settle for a reproduction.

King and McCaw produce a wide range of Matisse's art and exhibition posters as silk-screen prints. ‘The Velvets' has the vibrancy of a tropical garden, (£260, kingandmcgaw.com).

Matisse in the Studio is on at the Royal Academy of Arts until 12 November, royalacademy.org.uk


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ISSN: 1980-5861