For the first exposition after reviving Henri Sergei Matisse-Shchukin at the Pompidou, the author has presented one of his latest fine art paintings – Musician/ess. The work pursues a line of rethinking early collaborative pieces of art by the artist and the collector. Musician/ess is an abstraction showing a close-up of genitalia, sketched from the 1910 painting Music. Music is considered one of the turning points in the history of the relationship between Sergei Shchukin and Henri Matisse. It is the culmination of the lifetime collaboration between the artist and the collector, which manifests primarily in transition from verbal communication to direct artistic cooperation.
For a long time Shchukin has been hesitating over buying Music. Originally, it was ordered along with other paintings to decorate the collector’s home in Moscow. Music was to hang in an embrasure over the staircase. However, the painting has turned out too experimental even for such a big fan of the French master’s art. The collector asks the artist to have pity on him. He is prepared to put up with a lack of understanding on the part of art connoisseurs and Moscow art critics. But what can he do with his young daughters, who may get a sight of the genitalia of one of the musicians? Shchukin asks to paint the genitalia out, but the artist totally refuses. After his visit to Paris and yet another discussion of the artwork, the collector decides to withdraw the order.
Final decision comes on his way back to Moscow. Shchukin changes his mind. He sends a telegram with apologies and solid intention to get the painting for his collection. And then he paints the genitals out, laying foundation for future artistic collaboration. In November 1918 Shchukin’s collection is nationalized by Vladimir Lenin’s decree. Ekaterina Keller, one of the collector’s daughters, is appointed as its curator. Matisse tries to influence the Soviet government and writes them letters, asking to restore the musician’s genitals. Nevertheless, cultural leaders of the young proletariat state, committed to overcoming the individualistic approach to art and gender stereotypes, turn the artist down. It is not until the end of the 1980-s and the restoration of capitalism that the genitals are back in their place.
Matisse-Shchukin’s new artwork puts the historical record straight, reviving the liberatory spark of their early collaboration. Musician/ess exposition also comprises paintings of Henri Matisse from the Centre Pompidou’s collection and historical documents.