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Unravelling the Musical in Art: Matisse, his music and his textiles

Atkinson, Victoria (2017) Unravelling the Musical in Art: Matisse, his music and his textiles. PhD thesis, University of Essex.

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From flamenco guitarists to parlour pianists, Matisse’s images of music-making often appear within decorative scenes of gleaming carpets, multi-coloured costumes and lavishly embroidered wall hangings. All of these textiles and more comprised what he called ‘ma bibliothèque de travail’, a working library of inspiration that he maintained throughout his career. ‘I am made up of everything I have seen,’ he remarked, to which he might have added, ‘and heard.’ Practising, performing, listening and concert-going: music, like textiles, was a lifelong pursuit. But his passion for them is not simply of anecdotal significance, nor does it explain their mere co-existence as the subject-matter of his art. Rather, just as music and textiles are interwoven at every stage of his life, so too is their structural and conceptual significance in his work. In a series of case studies, a single textile from his working library is paired with the art it inspired: the kasāya robe and 'The Song of the Nightingale'; the Moghan rug and the Symphonic Interiors; and the Bakuba velours and 'Jazz'. In each case, visual form is found to have musical counterpart, both in the textiles themselves and as represented by Matisse. This opens up new, more imaginative possibilities of interpreting his visual musicality, which is found to be metaphysical, modal and motivic in concept. Finally, these separate strands are drawn together in a single synoptic analysis of the Chapel of the Rosary, the artist’s self-proclaimed masterpiece and ‘total’ work of art. This thesis explores the expansive musical space created by the reduced visual form of textiles. Considered together for the first time, these enduring and inseparable continuities of Matisse’s art – music and textiles – suggest not only a means of unravelling his own visual musicality, but point towards a much-needed methodology for interpreting this notion more broadly.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Victoria Atkinson Henri Matisse Art History Music Musicology Ethnomusicology Textiles Painting Jazz Theory The Song of the Nightingale Ballets Russes Symphonic Interiors Jazz Bakuba Chapel of the Rosary Aesthetics Metaphysics Modality Motif Pattern Synaesthesia Cut-Outs
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BH Aesthetics
M Music and Books on Music > M Music
N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
N Fine Arts > ND Painting
N Fine Arts > NK Decorative arts Applied arts Decoration and ornament
N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities > Philosophy and Art History, School of
Depositing User: Victoria Atkinson
Date Deposited: 22 Jan 2018 16:15
Last Modified: 22 Jan 2018 16:15

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