以下這篇〈畫家筆記〉是亨利·馬諦斯（Henry Matisse, 1869~1954）一九〇八年為了回應作家兼藝評家貝拉丹（M. Peladan）的文章而撰寫的。（英文版本附於譯文之後）此前，馬諦斯聯同一個畫家群體一起舉辦展覽，展出作品中大多都不講究傳統透視與明暗的技法表現，不但擯棄了對象物的原始色彩，而且大量使用了強烈對比的、看似不搭調的色彩組合來表達他們形形色色的情感，因此引來後者撰文批評。實際上，在更早之前，這群以馬諦斯為首的畫家頭上已被扣上一頂「野獸派」的帽子了。馬諦斯這篇筆記很快就被人譯成德文和俄文，並且在當年的藝術圈裡廣泛流傳，想當然地有著深遠的影響作用；在其筆下一再出現的幾個字眼：感受（Feelings），情感（Expressions），感覺（Sensations），無疑是該文的關鍵詞了；這些概念莫不是都牽涉到人在心緒上和覺識上程度不一的狀況，在中文語境裡意思相當接近，有興趣瞭解有關內容的街坊們，最好不要掉以輕心！全文相當長，我主要是根據英文版本（某一版本）來翻譯，譯文的全部責任都在我，若有不當之處，敬請教正。
儘管如此，譬如像希涅克（Paul Signac）、德斯瓦利爾（George Desvallieres）、丹尼 （Maurice Denis）、布蘭奇（Jacques-Emile Blanche）、蓋林（Pierre-Narcisse Guerin）和貝爾納（Emile Bernard）等人早已寫過不少相關的東西、且都在不同期刊上廣受矚目。我個人不會太在意寫作上的問題，我會試著把自己身為畫家所感受和嚮往的簡括地表達出來。
印象派畫家對感覺情有獨鍾，特別是莫內（Claude Monet）與西斯萊（Alfred Sisley）二人走得很近，導致他們的畫作大部份都極為類同。「印象主義」（Impressionism）一詞完美地描述了他們的畫風，莫不是因為他們精準地捕捉住種種的印象。對於某些新進畫家而言，他們避開了第一印象、且將之視為失真的做法，所以這個稱謂並不合適。疾速描繪下來的風景只能呈現其存在的那一瞬間。我寧願堅持它的本質特徵，甘冒失去媚惑力的風險以獲得更大的穩定性。
在這一連串構成存在與事物的表面痕跡的時間基礎上，藉以對之持續不斷地進行修正和轉化，人們可以探尋一個更本真、更精粹的形質，藝術家要抓緊這時機，從而讓自己為現實給出一個更加恆定的詮釋。當我們走進羅浮宮那些十七至十八世紀的雕塑展廳欣賞作品，譬如直面皮傑 （Pierre Puget）的某一創作，我們可以看到這種表現方式被強迫和誇張到令人不安的地步。如果去盧森堡宮【位於巴黎第六區盧森堡公園內，該宮殿始建於1615年，原為法國皇家後殿，現在是法國參議院所在。——譯註】的話則是完全相反的情況。這些雕塑家始終隨著逐一成員的開展來塑造其模特的形質，每塊肌肉的張力都表現為最強的勢能。然而，這樣理解下的共鳴【通感】作用完全沒有對應到自然界裡的任何事物：好比我們在不經意間抓拍的影像，其結果無助於我們想起自己曾見過甚麼來。唯有當我們把目前的感覺與較早或稍後的感覺都聯接在一起，這般延續似的共鳴作用對我們才有意思。
我最感興趣的既不是靜物畫，也不是風景畫，反而是人物畫。最能表達我對近乎宗教情操的生活非人物畫莫屬。我沒有執著於採用臉部的每一個細節，而是按照解剖學上的精確意義把這張臉呈現出來。譬如我有一個意大利模特，乍看之下，她什麼都沒有表露，在在是一般純粹的原始的存在，儘管如此我發現了她不可或缺的秉性，我洞察了那張臉的線條，這些線暗示著在每個人身上都具有的吸引力。一件藝術品必須在其自身內部擁有完整的意義，並且能夠感染旁觀者，甚至在他還未意識到創作題材之前。當我在帕多瓦（Padua；位於意大利北部）看到喬托（Giotto di Bondone）的壁畫時，我對於描述耶穌一生的事蹟那一些情節，並不會跟自己先前所認知的感到有所出入，我立即明白這恰恰是由於其中的線條、構成、色彩所帶出的情感而產生。那個標題不過是確證了我的印象而已。
那些最能讓藝術家表達自我的手段正是最簡易不過的手段。若他怯於平庸，他就不可避免地會表現得不可思議，抑或是趨向使用狂怪的畫法和奇異的色彩。他的表達方式似乎必須從他的性情中獲取。他必須很謙卑地承認自己只能畫出自己所見過的事物。我喜歡查爾丁（Jean Simeon Chardin）的表述方式：「直到相似之前我不會停下筆來。」或塞尚（Paul Cezanne）所言：「我想確立一種相似性。」或如羅丹（Auguste Rodin）說的：「複製自然！」達芬奇（Leonardo da Vinci）則說：「懂得複製就可以創造了。」那些採以先入為主的風格、刻意違反自然的工作方式者，與真相擦肩而過了。藝術家必須清楚知道，當他進行論析時，他的畫就是一種計謀；不過，當他作畫之際，他勢必會感覺到自己不過是在複製自然。即使他背離自然而去，他也必須懷著如此信念，亦即是對自然做出更充分的詮釋罷了。
藝術家總是從攸關自我的信息中獲益，我很高興得知自己的弱點是什麼。貝拉丹（Merodack Josephin Peladan；作家兼藝評家）發表在《評論週刊》（Revue Hebdomadaire）的文章中，把為數不少的畫家稱做「野獸」（Fauves）來羞辱人家，我想我自己應該對號入座，乃至跟其他人都穿得一個模樣，如此一來，大夥兒才不致於比那些在百貨公司裡閒逛的甲乙丙丁等受到矚目。天才得以取決的是不是這麼少？倘使只是我一個人的問題引起貝拉丹先生感到不悅，明天我將自稱為「薩爾人」（Sar；莽夫），並且打扮成一個招魂術士那樣好了。
規則並非自外於個人而存在：否則的話，一名優秀的教授準會像拉辛（Jean-Baptiste Racine；劇作家）這個天才般高強了。我們當中可以重述那些優美格言者大有人在，相對只有少數人有能力理解其中含義。我必須坦誠地說，研究顯示了拉斐爾（Raphael）或提香（Titian）的作品中可以得出比從馬奈（Edouard Manet）或雷諾阿（Auguste Renoir）的作品更為完整的一套規則，但是馬奈和雷諾阿依循的是那些適合他們本身氣質的規則，我寧可選擇他們所有繪畫中相較次要一些的，而不是那些執意在仿效〈烏爾比諾的維納斯〉（Venus of Urbino；提香作品）或〈有金翅雀的聖母〉（Madonna of the Goldfinch；拉斐爾作品）的作品。後者對任何人都沒有價值，因為無論我們願意與否，我們都屬於我們的時代，在畫作中我們與人分享觀點、感受甚至是遐想。大凡藝術家都烙下了自己的時代印記，然而偉大的藝術家卻是在這中間擁有最深刻烙印的藝術家。譬如說庫爾貝特（Gustave Courbet）的繪畫既比弗蘭德林（Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin）而羅丹的雕塑也比弗雷米耶特（Emmanuel Frémiet）更好地表徵了我們這一時代。無論我們是否喜歡它，無論我們如何堅持不懈地稱自己為流放者，在我們的時代和我們之間已建立了不解之緣，即便是貝拉丹先生本人也擺脫不了。未來的美學家大概會採用他的著作，如果他們存心想要借此來論證我們這個時代根本無人對達芬奇的藝術有一丁點認識。
Woman with a Hat, 1905.
Oil on canvas, 80.56 cm X 59.69 cm.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Self Portrait in a Striped T-shirt, 1906.
Oil on canvas, 55 cm X 46 cm.
Statens Museum for Kunst, Denmark.
Henri Matisse: “Notes of a Painter” (1908)
A painter who addresses the public not just in order to present his works, but to reveal some of his ideas on the art of painting, exposes himself to several dangers.
In the first place, knowing that many people like to think of painting as an appendage of literature and therefore want it to express not general ideas suited to pictorial means, but specifically literary ideas, I fear that one will look with astonishment upon the painter who ventures to invade the domain of the literary man. As a matter of fact, I am fully aware that a painter’s best spokesman is his work.
However, such painters as Signac, Desvallieres, Denis, Blanche, Guerin and Bernard have written on such matters and been well received by various periodicals. Personally, I shall simply try to state my feelings and aspirations as a painter without worrying about the writing.
But now I foresee the danger of appearing to contradict myself. I feel very strongly the tie between my earlier and my recent works, but I do not think exactly the way I thought yesterday. Or rather, my basic idea has not changed, but my thought has evolved, and my modes of expression have followed my thoughts. I do not repudiate any of my paintings but there is not one of them that I would not redo differently, if I had it to redo. My destination is always the same but I work out a different route to get there.
Finally, if I mention the name of this or that artist it will be to point out how our manners differ, and it may seem that I am belittling his work. Thus I risk being accused of injustice towards painters whose aims and results I best understand, or whose accomplishments I most appreciate, whereas I will have used them as examples, not to establish my superiority over them, but to show more clearly, through what they have done, what I am attempting to do.
What I am after, above all, is expression. Sometimes it has been conceded that I have a certain technical ability but that all the same my ambition is limited, and does not go beyond the purely visual satisfaction such as can be obtained from looking at a picture. But the thought of a painter must not be considered as separate from his pictorial means, for the thought is worth no more than its expression by the means, which must be more complete (and by complete I do not mean complicated) the deeper is his thought. I am unable to distinguish between the feeling I have about life and my way of translating it.
Expression, for me, does not reside in passions glowing in a human face or manifested by violent movement. The entire arrangement of my picture is expressive: the place occupied by the figures, the empty spaces around them, the proportions, everything has its share. Composition is the art of arranging in a decorative manner the diverse elements at the painter’s command to express his feelings. In a picture every part will be visible and will play its appointed role, whether it be principal or secondary. Everything that is not useful in the picture is, it follows, harmful. A work of art must be harmonious in its entirety: any superfluous detail would replace some other essential detail in the mind of the spectator.
Composition, the aim of which should be expression, is modified according to the surface to be covered. If I take a sheet of paper of a given size, my drawing will have a necessary relationship to its format. I would not repeat this drawing on another sheet of different proportions, for example, rectangular instead of square. Nor should I be satisfied with a mere enlargement, had I to transfer the drawing to a sheet the same shape, but ten times larger. A drawing must have an expansive force which gives life to the things around it. An artist who wants to transpose a composition from one canvas to another larger one must conceive it anew in order to preserve its expression; he must alter its character and not just square it up onto the larger canvas.
Both harmonies and dissonances of color can produce agreeable effects. Often when I start to work I record fresh and superficial sensations during the first session. A few years ago I was sometimes satisfied with the result. But today if I were satisfied with this, now that I think I can see further, my picture would have a vagueness in it: I should have recorded the fugitive sensations of a moment which could not completely define my feelings and which I should barely recognize the next day.
I want to reach that state of condensation of sensations which makes a painting. I might be satisfied with a work done at one sitting, but I would soon tire of it, therefore, I prefer to rework it so that later I may recognize it as representative of my state of mind. There was a time when I never left my paintings hanging on the wall because they reminded me of moments of over-excitement and I did not like to see them again when I was calm. Nowadays I try to put serenity into my pictures and rework them as long as I have not succeeded.
Suppose I want to paint a woman’s body: first of all I imbue it with grace and charm, but I know that I must give something more. I will condense the meaning of this body by seeking its essential lines. The charm will be less apparent at first glance, but it must eventually emerge from the new image which will have a broader meaning, one more fully human. The charm will be less striking since it will not be the sole quality of the painting, but it will not exist less for its being contained within the general conception of the figure.
Charm, lightness, freshness—such fleeting sensations. I have a canvas on which the colors are still fresh and I begin to work on it again. The tone will no doubt become duller. I will replace my original tone with one of greater density, an improvement, but less seductive to the eve.
The Impressionist painters, especially Monet and Sisley, had delicate sensations, quite close to each other: as a result their canvases all look alike. The word “impressionism” perfectly characterizes their style, for they register fleeting impressions. It is not an appropriate designation for certain more recent painters who avoid the first impression, and consider it almost dishonest. A rapid rendering of a landscape represents only one moment of its existence [durée]. I prefer, by insisting upon its essential character, to risk losing charm in order to obtain greater stability.
Underlying this succession of moments which constitutes the superficial existence of beings and things, and which is continually modifying and transforming them, one can search for a truer, more essential character, which the artist will seize so that he may give to reality a more lasting interpretation. When we go into the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century sculpture rooms in the Louvre and look, for example, at a Puget, we can see that the expression is forced and exaggerated to the point of being disquieting. It is quite a different matter if we go to the Luxembourg; the attitude in which the sculptors catch their models is always the one in which the development of the members and tensions of the muscles will be shown to greatest advantage. And yet movement thus understood corresponds to nothing in nature: when we capture it by surprise in a snapshot, the resulting image reminds us of nothing that we have seen. Movement seized while it is going on is meaningful to us only if we do not isolate the present sensation either from that which precedes it or that which follows it.
There are two ways of expressing things; one is to show them crudely, the other is to evoke them through art. By removing oneself from the literal representation of movement one attains greater beauty and grandeur. Look at an Egyptian statue: it looks rigid to us, yet we sense in it the image of a body capable of movement and which, despite its rigidity, is animated. The Greeks too are calm: a man hurling a discus will be caught at the moment in which he gathers his strength, or at least, if he is shown in the most strained and precarious position implied by his action, the sculptor will have epitomized and condensed it so that equilibrium is re-established, thereby suggesting the idea of duration. Movement is in itself unstable and is not suited to something durable like a statue, unless the artist is aware of the entire action of which he represents only a moment.
I must precisely define the character of the object or of the body that I wish to paint. To do so, I study my method very closely: If I put a black dot on a sheet of white paper, the dot will be visible no matter how far away I hold it: it is a clear notation. But beside this dot I place another one, and then a third, and already there is confusion. In order for the first dot to maintain its value I must enlarge it as I put other marks on the paper.
If upon a white canvas I set down some sensations of blue, of green, of red, each new stroke diminishes the importance of the preceding ones. Suppose I have to paint an interior: I have before me a cupboard; it gives me a sensation of vivid red, and I put down a red which satisfies me. A relation is established between this red and the white of the canvas. Let me put a green near the red, and make the floor yellow; and again there will be relationships between the green or yellow and the white of the canvas which will satisfy me. But these different tones mutually weaken one another. It is necessary that the various marks I use be balanced so that they do not destroy each other. To do this I must organize my ideas; the relationships between the tones must be such that it will sustain and not destroy them. A new combination of colors will succeed the first and render the totality of my representation. I am forced to transpose until finally my picture may seem completely changed when, after successive modifications, the red has succeeded the green as the dominant color. I cannot copy nature in a servile way; I am forced to interpret nature and submit it to the spirit of the picture. From the relationship I have found in all the tones there must result a living harmony of colors, a harmony analogous to that of a musical composition.
For me all is in the conception. I must therefore have a clear vision of the whole from the beginning. I could mention a great sculptor who gives us some admirable pieces: but for him a composition is merely a grouping of fragments, which results in a confusion of expression. Look instead at one of Cézanne‟s pictures: all is so well arranged that no matter at what distance you stand or how many figures are represented you will always be able to distinguish each figure clearly and to know which limb belongs to which body. If there is order and clarity in the picture, it means that from the outset this same order and clarity existed in the mind of the painter, or that the painter was conscious of their necessity. Limbs may cross and intertwine, but in the eyes of the spectator they will nevertheless remain attached to and help to articulate the right body: all confusion has disappeared.
The chief function of color should be to serve expression as well as possible. I put down my tones without a preconceived plan. If at first, and perhaps without my having been conscious of it, one tone has particularly seduced or caught me, more often than not once the picture is finished I will notice that I have respected this tone while I progressively altered and transformed all the others. The expressive aspect of colors imposes itself on me in a purely instinctive way. To paint an autumn landscape I will not try to remember what colors suit this season, I will be inspired only by the sensation that the season arouses in me: the icy purity of the sour blue sky will express the season just as well as the nuances of foliage. My sensation itself may vary, the autumn may be soft and warm like a continuation of summer, or quite cool with a cold sky and lemon- yellow trees that give a chilly impression and already announce winter.
My choice of colors does not rest on any scientific theory; it is based on observation, on sensitivity, on felt experiences. Inspired by certain pages of Delacroix, an artist like Signac is preoccupied with complementary colors, and the theoretical knowledge of them will lead him to use a certain tone in a certain place. But I simply try to put down colors which render my sensation. There is an impelling proportion of tones that may lead me to change the shape of a figure or to transform my composition. Until I have achieved this proportion in all the parts of the composition I strive towards it and keep on working. Then a moment comes when all the parts have found their definite relationships, and from then on it would be impossible for me to add a stroke to my picture without having to repaint it entirely.
In reality, I think that the very theory of complementary colors is not absolute. In studying the paintings of artists whose knowledge of colors depends upon instinct and feeling, and on a constant analogy with their sensations, one could define certain laws of color and so broaden the limits of color theory as it is now defined.
What interests me most is neither still life nor landscape, but the human figure. It is that which best permits me to express my almost religious awe towards life. I do not insist upon all the details of the face, on setting them down one-by-one with anatomical exactitude. If I have an Italian model who at first appearance suggests nothing but a purely animal existence, I nevertheless discover his essential qualities, I penetrate amid the lines of the face those which suggest the deep gravity which persists in every human being. A work of art must carry within itself its complete significance and impose that upon the beholder even before he recognizes the subject matter. When I see the Giotto frescoes at Padua I do not trouble myself to recognize which scene of the life of Christ I have before me, but I immediately understand the sentiment which emerges from it, for it is in the lines, the composition, the color. The title will only serve to confirm my impression.
What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity, devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter, an art which could be for every mental worker, for the businessman as well as the man of letters, for example, a soothing, calming influence on the mind, something like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.
Often a discussion arises as to the value of different processes, and their relationship to different temperaments. A distinction is made between painters who work directly from nature and those who work purely from imagination. Personally, I think neither of these methods must be preferred to the exclusion of the other. Both may be used in turn by the same individual, either because he needs contact with objects in order to receive sensations that will excite his creative faculty, or his sensations are already organized. In either case he will be able to arrive at that totality which constitutes a picture. In any event I think that one can judge the vitality and power of an artist who, after having received impressions directly from the spectacle of nature, is able to organize his sensations to continue his work in the same frame of mind on different days, and to develop these sensations; this power proves he is sufficiently master of himself to subject himself to discipline.
The simplest means are those which best enable an artist to express himself. If he fears the banal he cannot avoid it by appearing strange, or going in for bizarre drawing and eccentric color. His means of expression must derive almost of necessity from his temperament. He must have the humility of mind to believe that he has painted only what he has seen. I like Chardin’s way of expressing it: “I apply color until there is a resemblance.” Or Cézanne’s: “I want to secure a likeness,” or Rodin’s: “Copy nature!” Leonardo said: “He who can copy can create.” Those who work in a preconceived style, deliberately turning their backs on nature, miss the truth. An artist must recognize, when he is reasoning, that his picture is an artifice; but when he is painting, he should feel that he has copied nature. And even when he departs from nature, he must do it with the conviction that it is only to interpret her more fully.
Some may say that other views on painting were expected from a painter, and that I have only come out with platitudes. To this I shall reply that there are no new truths. The role of the artist, like that of the scholar, consists of seizing current truths often repeated to him, but which will take on new meaning for him and which he will make his own when he has grasped their deepest significance. If aviators had to explain to us the research which led to their leaving earth and rising in the air, they would merely confirm very elementary principles of physics neglected by less successful inventors.
An artist always profits from information about himself, and I am glad to have learned what is my weak point. M. Péladan in the Revue Hébdomadaire reproaches a certain number of painters, amongst whom I think I should place myself, for calling themselves “Fauves”, and yet dressing like everyone else, so that they are no more noticeable than the floor-walkers in a department store. Does genius depend on so little? If it were only a question of myself that would set M. Péladan’s mind at ease, tomorrow I would call myself Sar and dress like a necromancer.
In the same article this excellent writer claims that I do not paint honestly, and I would be justifiably angry if he had not qualified his statement by saying, “I mean honestly with respect to the ideal and the rules.” The trouble is that he does not mention where these rules are. I am willing to have them exist, but were it possible to learn them what sublime artists we would have!
Rules have no existence outside of individuals: otherwise a good professor would be as great a genius as Racine. Any one of us is capable of repeating fine maxims, but few can also penetrate their meaning. I am ready to admit that from a study of the works of Raphael or Titian a more complete set of rules can be drawn than from the works of Manet or Renoir, but the rules followed by Manet and Renoir were those which suited their temperaments and I prefer the most minor of their paintings to all the work of those who are content to imitate the Venus of Urbino or the Madonna of the Goldfinch. These latter are of no value to anyone, for whether we want to or not, we belong to our time and we share in its opinions, its feelings, even its delusions. All artists bear the imprint of their time, but the great artists are those in whom this is most profoundly marked. Our epoch for instance is better represented by Courbet than by Flandrin, by Rodin better than by Frémiet. Whether we like it or not, however insistently we call ourselves exiles, between our period and ourselves an indissoluble bond is established, and M. Péladan himself cannot escape it. The aestheticians of the future may perhaps use his books as evidence if they get it in their heads to prove that no one of our time understood anything about the art of Leonardo da Vinci.