Since the inception of modernity, since the rise of the bourgeois culture of representation, the figure of the interior has modeled the relationship between the picture and its beholder: as an enclosed space that opens up toward the observer and invites him or her to participate in the represented world. Matisse, however, thwarts this fantasy of immersion: with his chairs. They are precisely not figures of the notorious armchair, with its therapeutic mission of furnishing us with a peaceful interior world as a shield against the demands of what is outside. Matisse’s chairs stand literally athwart the invitation to participate, keeping us at arm’s length. The interior is the very subject on which Matisse worked to become Matisse, if we accept Yve-Alain Bois’s conception of a “Matisse system.” Only the articulation of margins such as that engendered by the bistable figure of inside and outside in the interior allows for the representation of the expansive force that is characterestic of Matisse – an expansive force that is directed sideways, not toward the beholder.
Beate Söntgen holds the Chair of Art History at Leuphana University, Lüneburg, since 2011. Before she was Professor of Art History at Ruhr-University of Bochum and Laurenz-Professor for Contemporary Art at the University of Basel. 1996-2002 Freelancer at the Feuilleton of the FAZ. Contribution to Exhibitions, 2006 as a Co-Curator of ‘K20’ Düsseldorf: 'Matisse. Figure-Colour-Space.’ Publications on modern and contemporary art and on art theory.
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