A Visit to the Pompidou: The Day I Fell in Love with Matisse

Last week I got to banish the January blues and Wednesday “hump day” in one fell swoop with a day trip to Paris with my sister. We got a nice and early Eurostar from London, ate croissants on the way there (to get us in the right mood of course!) and had a whirlwind day exploring my favourite city of all time. What was really lovely is that we ended up at the Centre Pompidou, somewhere I have been meaning to visit since I first visited Paris nearly seven years ago but have never got around to, so I thought I’d devote this blog post to a lovely hour or two spent exploring the Pompidou! Although, having gone through my photos, it seems like it’s going to be a post devoted all the Matisse I enjoyed at the Pompidou…

So the first thing about the Pompidou is that it stands out completely. Amongst the Haussmannised streets of Paris – and the Pompidou is at the heart, in the 4th arrondissement, near the Marais and Les Halles – the modern, colourful building seems a little crazy when you arrive in the square it’s in. It is named after Georges Pompidou, the French President from 1969 to 1974, who actually commissioned it. It looks almost inside out, with all the tubes and structure on the outside, but that makes it even more interesting. It was designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, and not only contains modern art collections from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, but also a research and public library, amongst other things. What’s even more exciting? The gorgeous views across the city – in particular, when the sun finally came out for us last week, there was a lovely view across to Montmartre and the Sacre-Cœur!

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Inside, the museum feels light, airy and spacious. We immediately went up to view the permanent collection, which involved going up the escalators on the outside of the building – again, very cool and different to any art museum I’ve ever been to! The collection is really varied and interesting – and admittedly, I’ve never been a massive fan of modern art (a generic response I know, but I tend to stop with the Impressionists and not go much further…), but I actually really enjoyed it. And I discovered that I apparently really love Matisse – so here are three of my favourite things I saw of Matisse in the Pompidou Collection…

Matisse was not initially destined to become an artist – he began as a solicitor’s clerk, then studied for a law degree in Paris, then went back to his clerk job before deciding to take up drawing classes. After he had suffered from appendicitis and was recovering in 1889, when he was twenty years old, he began to paint. From this, he gave up his legal career and went back to Paris to study art, soon joining the studio of Gustave Moreau and later becoming a member of the Salon. He is also famous for being the leader of the Fauvism movement: les fauves translates as “the wild beasts”. Fauvist artists were preoccupied by really strong colours and brushwork, almost like an extreme follow on of Vincent Van Gogh.

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The first painting that really caught my eye when we walked in was this 1925-6 Matisse painting, Decorative Figure on an Ornamental Background. It is so colourful, with lots of different patterns going on, as well as a flourishing plant and a bowl of bright lemons. It definitely reflects that Matisse took a trip to southern Italy and Sicily in the summer of 1925.

I really loved these two drawings in the Pompidou collection, both from 1939: Danseuse assise and La Blouse roumaine. They remind me a lot of a Matisse drawing I saw in the British Museum Lines of Thought exhibition at the University of Hull Art Collection – read my blog post on that here. I love the smudgy style, where the lines have been moved around, showing the drawings as thinking processes.

Nearby…

I couldn’t help but mention a great place for some food not far away from the Pompidou – introduced to me by one of my best friends, L’As du Falafell does the tastiest falafel I’ve ever had, plus you can have a walk through the lovely Marais to get there! I’d definitely recommend taking a trip there!

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