Eve J. Alfille Gallery and Studio

Matisse Q&A


Q: Tell me a little bit about your new series, ‘Matisse’

A: About twenty years ago, I created a single piece that I called ‘Homage to Matisse.’ It was a neckpiece composed of four different elements: some were solid, some pavé diamonds, one was a pearl with three lobes, and each of the parts were connected, in an almost ephemeral way, by platinum wire. It was a sumptuous piece, and quite large, but its character lay mostly in its playfulness.

It was intended to reflect the way that Matisse made abstraction very friendly! Matisse’s abstraction is never painful, as a lot of the early 20th century abstraction felt it had to be…especially in the aftermath of a war that was cruel. A lot of it is meant Portrait_of_Henri_Matisse_1933_May_20to be harsh and disorienting in order to make the point that realism is no longer where art is ‘at.’ Matisse had quite a long life, and he said a number of things that are of interest–one, of course, that everybody knows: that he would “seek the strongest color effect possible…content is of no importance.” And you can especially see that in the later part of his work on canvas, which was done while he lived in Nice.

Nice is a southern beach town with a lot of color and sunshine, so the pieces Matisse made there are very colorful! But, surprisingly, they were never actually outdoors…Nice paintings always represent very widely colorful interiors of his apartment in different guises, along with some models at times. And people questioned that; especially these great rivals (like Picasso, who was sometimes friends, sometimes rivals with Matisse)! While Picasso left any kind of realism behind, here was Matisse doing these interiors…that’s when he said that it’s all about the color. The content, well, that’s not important. But my interest, while I admire the color, is in the line, the form, and the way that the abstraction was created.

I am particularly interested in his collage. We know that Matisse, later in life, was incapacitated. He spent most of his time in bed, but he was working. He triumphed over frailty. He found a method of working, which was to cut out colored papers (painted beforehand by an assistant) and arranged them in such a way as to present a picture which the mind would have to perform some work to understand. So, at first, what you see are gaily-colored forms on paper, and then an image emerges….and this is a very strong form of abstraction. 


“Henri, the twenty-first century called…” ©Eve Alfillé, Photo Credit: Matt Arden

I am especially interested in the interstices, the spaces: in what is NOT on the paper, in what is NOT colored, but its form and the part of the form that has literally been abstracted. It’s not there. Matisse reverted to collage later in his career, but really, he had started them early in his career. He was able to create this feeling of great movement and the complete picture without everything having to be expressed. The empty spaces are, therefore, a great interest of mine. In some of the work that I’m creating today, I am going to emphasize the interstices and the spaces in between the colored forms. 

So, even in my early piece ‘Matisse,’ I was paying homage to the playfulness. To the ease. The thing that you notice about collage is that they’re almost child-like. But when you delve into them further, you see that they’re actually quite complex. It is not easy to capture that feeling and to create it in a different medium, especially working in the medium of jewelry where the metals are not inherently as colorful. But you are dealing with metals, largely, and so it requires a rethinking of the forms. 

Q: Are there any materials or gems we can expect to see? 

A: I am looking at a large, lush pearls: not rounded pearls, but voluptuous shapes. Matisse’s forms are very voluptuous, and those are the pearls that inspire me. There will be some larger gems of strong, intense colors: amethysts, rubelites, citrines, and sapphires, as well as small, sharply-colored rubies and other bright colors to mark the spaces in between the sections.

8130788144_15483b89c9_bQ: Do you have a favorite piece by Matisse? 

A: There are many! When you travel in the south of France, you of course want to go and see his chapel in Vence, which is remarkable. It was truly modern: it has no extraneous decoration. The decorations are the windows, the glass that he sketched, and it’s an amazing piece. It’s quite striking and very beautiful…but I also very much like his interiors, the Nice series.

Q: As someone who has also worked in many different fields (Matisse started as a lawyer) and has also worked in a variety of artistic media, do you see yourself in Henri Matisse at all? 

A: Well, perhaps in the way that when he was given paint and started doing this, he had this realization that this is what he was meant to do…and afterwards it made him, obviously, happy, and it does to me as well.