Wayne Koestenbaum: The Desire to Write

August 22, 2011  |  By
Filed under: Essay

Henri Matisse, _The Young Sailor I_, 1906; Private collection; © 2011 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The Desire to Write about Young Sailor


I could exorcise my love for this Matisse painting by writing about the patch of unadulterated blue, a triangle, which represents the receding plane of the sailor’s chair. Because this blue patch echoes the blue sky, mimicry modifies our ability to read the chair as a surface; instead, the seat becomes the brightest horizon we’ll ever receive an invitation to traverse and to destroy. I don’t want to write about the young sailor’s crotch; my desire to write about Matisse’s colors exceeds my waning wish to describe his evocation, in black and green, of (according to the catalogue) “a young fisherman he had met in Collioure.” Trying to pronounce “Collioure,” I pucker: an agreeable astringency.

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