Royal Academy, London
Pots, jugs, chairs, textiles… Matisse’s work is peopled by his beloved possessions, which in turn begin to look like Matisses in this beautifully cluttered journey into the artist’s mind
At his wedding in 1898, Henri Matisse received a silver chocolate pot as a gift from a fellow painter. You can see this startling object at the Royal Academy. Low-bellied like a duck, it balances on three dainty feet and rises up, full-throated and almost comical, to a speaking beak of a spout.
Which is exactly how it first appears in his art, described in quite conventional 19th-century style. But Matisse soon starts to paint the pot’s personality. Its handle sticks out like a bicyclist turning left, or lunges straight at the viewer – en garde! The silver beak opens and shuts. It appears in a flurry of wild blue arabesques, trying to stand fast like a sailor in a storm. Or it sits quietly beside the artist’s young daughter as she reads, keeping a kindly watch.