Matisse in the Studio review – genius crowded out by bric-a-brac

By Jonathan Jones

Royal Academy, London
Instead of providing insight into the mind of Matisse, this collection of the artist's antique chairs and chocolate pots belittles his art and highlights his conservatism

The women who posed for Henri Matisse are long gone. A black and white photograph, taken in 1928, portrays a model known as Zita reclining in culottes amid a carefully contrived boudoir of colourful throws and hangings – at least we imagine the furnishings and her clothes were colourful when this was a living world, instead of its silvery monochrome echo. Matisse sits by her bed, bearded and bespectacled, sketchbook in hand. Zita looks at him with what might be dry amusement. The photographer wondered about their relationship, and so do we. Yet it is gone, that human electricity.

Related: How to paint happiness: a masterclass from Matisse

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