Henri Matisse: Constant Effort of Vision

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A 1954 statement by Henri Matisse, republished on the occasion of the exhibition Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs at Tate Modern, on view through September 17, 2014.

Matisse writes: "Thus, for the artist creation begins with vision. To see is itself a creative operation, requiring an effort. Everything that we see in our daily life is more or less distorted by acquired habits, and this is perhaps more evident in an age like ours when the cinema posters and magazines present us every day with a flood of ready-made images which are to the eye what the prejudices are to the mind.

The effort needed to see things without distortion takes something very like courage; and this courage is essential to the artist, who has to look at everything as though he saw it for the first time: he has to look at life as he did when he was a child and, if he loses that faculty, he cannot express himself in an original, that is, a personal way. To take an example. Nothing, I think, is more difficult for a true painter than to paint a rose because, before he can do so, he has first to forget all the roses that were ever painted… The first step towards creation is to see everything as it really is, and that demands a constant effort."

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