The following texts were written by Rebecca Rabinow for the Metropolitan Museum's presentation of Matisse: In Search of True Painting.
Henri Matisse (1869–1954) was one of the most acclaimed artists working in France during the first half of the twentieth century. The critic Clement Greenberg, writing in The Nation in 1949, called him a "self-assured master who can no more help painting well than breathing." Unbeknownst to many, painting had rarely come easily to Matisse. Throughout his career, he questioned, repainted, and reevaluated his work. He used his completed canvases as tools, repeating compositions in order to compare effects, gauge his progress, and, as he put it, "push further and deeper into true painting." While this manner of working with pairs, trios, and series is certainly not unique to Matisse, his need to progress methodically from one painting to the next is striking. Matisse: In Search of True Painting presents this particular aspect of Matisse's painting process by showcasing forty-nine vibrantly colored canvases. For Matisse, the process of creation was not simply a means to an end but a dimension of his art that was as important as the finished canvas.