10 June 2010

blind faith

There is a wonderful anecdote which I recently came across. Matisse wanted to buy this small 'bathers' from Ambroise Vollard in the 1890's when he was almost destitute. He wanted it so badly but never imagined that he would have enough money to purchase it. He badgered Vollard for several years (who in the meantime had sold it to someone else but had since bought back from the same chap even cheaper than when he had sold originally.) (!) He finally relented and gave it to Matisse coupled with a contract to buy 12 paintings of his at a ridiculously low price. So Vollard, being a wily dealer, made out well but so did Matisse because he not only got his treasured Cezanne but also a deal to sell his paintings even if it wasn't at a great price. Through very lean times Matisse and his wife Amélie hung on to the Cezanne. They were extremely attached it and despite Cezanne's increasing worth over the years it never occurred to them to part with it. His wife Amélie had in fact pawned a family heirloom so that Matisse could buy it. Although she didn't know much about Art she understood what it meant to her husband. It seemed to be an act of blind faith for her, and for him. At his wife's suggestion he gave it to the city of Paris in 1937 and he said:

"In the thirty seven years since I have owned this painting I have come to know it fairly well though I hope not entirely. It has supported me morally at critical moments in my venture as an artist; I have drawn from it my faith and my perseverance."

I like this story because its not about money, but love of Art, which seems so rare these days.

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