The Bulletin of the Mie Prefectural Art Museum, no,4, March 2005
From Matisse to Moreau−the eternal conflict of
drawing and color, and Saosyant does not come
In a letter dated 1941 Henri Matisse(1869-1954) wrote on the eternal conflict of drawing and color(l’éternel conflit du dessin et de la couleur). As early as 1905 he had talked about the contradiction between drawing and painting. Although the opposition disegno/colorito itself is a conventional topos since the16th century, in the case of Matisse his statements seem to point to the difficulty to reconcile the figurative representation and the decorative construction of the picture surface, presupposing the invalidation of the traditional system of mimesis since the Renaissance.
Matisse never forgot his respect for Gustave Moreau(1826-98) as a teacher at l’École des Beaux-Arts, but one can find mere traces of the direct influence of Moreau’s work on Matisse.
By the way, in Moreau’s work one can recognize an intrinsic tendency for his drawing and color to dissociate from one another. This tendency originally derived from the classicist method that developed each process of drawing and coloring independently. However, in the case of Moreau it has become a symptom of the impossibility of the mutual adjustment between drawing and color, that is, the impossibility of the painting as a harmonized whole.
On this point, one may be able to discern a parallel problem for Matisse and Moreau, which was brought forth by the common ground called Modernity.