In April of 1946, a camera crew recorded the scene as the great French artist Henri Matisse sat down at his easel to make a charcoal sketch of his grandson, Gerard, at his his home and studio in Nice. The brief clip above is from a 26-minute film by François Campaux which was commissioned by the French Department of Cultural Relations. Alas, we’ve been unable to find the entire film online, but you can watch a 15-minute German version on YouTube, or you can visit a Web page at the Art Institute of Chicago for a group of higher quality silent excerpts from the film, accompanied by explanatory captions. In the clip above, we hear Matisse speaking in French. Here is a translation:
Me, I believe that painting and drawing are the same thing. Drawing is a painting done in a simpler way [or with “limited/reduced resources”]. On a white surface, a sheet of paper, with a plume [or “pen”] and some ink, one creates a certain contrast with volumes; one can change the quality of the paper given supple surfaces, light [or clear] surfaces, hard surfaces without always adding shadow or light. For me, drawing is a painting with limited means/resources.
For another glimpse of Matisse at work, look below for a rare color clip (from an unknown source) of the artist at work creating one of his distinctive paper cut-outs.