Matisse and the Idea of Reinvention


M. Mair, Before the Rebirth, Acrylic painting on canvas, Original art.

MoMA Features Pivotal Moments in Henri Matisse’s Radical Invention | Art Knowledge News.

This article in Art Knowledge News on Matisse and the way he ‘re-invented’ himself got me thinking about the idea of reinvention.  Particularly as I was in the process of reinventing this blog at the time.

I think there is more than one kind of reinvention.  Sometimes, it seems to me, an outward change reflects a real and deep change in who we understand ourselves to be.  But at other times what looks like reinvention to others may be something different to us: a movement closer to being who we really are rather than a change in ourselves. Not so much re-invention as re-presentation.

Children, less certain of who they are, enjoy a different kind of re-invention.  Children love to spend time pretending to be other people or other creatures.  It gives them a way to explore what it might feel like to be someone or something else.

As adults re-invention becomes something more thoughtful and less playful.  We have to have good reasons to re-invent ourselves, publicly or privately.

There are times when a strong sense of self is the reason for changing, rather than a reason for staying the same.  These are the times when knowing who we are gives us a strong basis from which to act, on which to build, from which to continue to learn.

Reinvention becomes something we do as we grow; a way of presenting not so much a new person as a new persona to the world.  We reinvent the self we show to others, rather than the self we know we are.

You could sum it up this way:

  • As we learn we grow;
  • as we grow we change in subtle ways;
  • as we change, we change what we show the world;
  • and then the world sees us as a new person, a reinvention of the person they think we are.

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