Le Pare-Brise, or The Windshield, by Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse, le Pare-brise, sur la route de Villacoublay, 1917, 38 x 55 cm oil on canvas, collection: Cleveland Museum of Art

Carolina Miranda shared an image of this unusual Matisse yesterday to mark the anniversary of the artist’s birth. It is a small painting that tells its own story: it was painted on the side of a busy road to the southwest of Paris and to the east of Versailles. The artist apparently switched places with his son, Pierre, who was driving, and painted this little canvas right where you see it: propped on the steering wheel.

Matisse, The Windshield Seam, 1917

This meta-painting is only my second favorite thing about it, though. In this used Renault Matisse saw the chance to paint a panoramic view of and through three contiguous windows. That includes one made of two panes of glass, which abut at a seam Matisse traced in faint black as part of the structure of the painting, a fragment of a technological horizon. Matisse, on a drive with his son, really said, “Pull over, I need to make a painting of this windshield.” And he did.

[A few days later update with an artist I would not have associated first with Matisse]: Relistening to Tyler Green’s 2019 MAN Podcast interview with Lari Pittman, at around 19:00, the painter talks about his love of driving in Los Angeles in part because, “the windshield of my car flattens everything out, flattens the experience out, and frames it formally…the windshield of my car is a curatorial device, and a formalizing device of what I’m receiving.” And I think Matisse would agree!