The Importance of Matisse, Windows & Daydreaming For Artists
by Thea Fiore-Bloom, PhD
Are you an artist or writer who is known to daydream out windows?
Good job. Keep it up.
Because daydreaming could be said to be what windows and made for.
Houses too, even.
As French philosopher Gaston Bachelard (1884-1962) said:
“The house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.”
Bachelard chose to honor, not belittle, daydreaming.
The Benefit of Daydreaming for Artists
Bachelard knew daydreaming had a profound and important job to do for an artist, writer or thinker:
“Daydream transports the dreamer outside the immediate world to a world that bears the mark of infinity.”
— Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space.
In other words, there are two reasons artists should daydream more often.
Firstly, daydreaming allows us to wiggle out of worry and slip into the infinite.
And secondly, spending a few minutes every day in the land of the infinite, ups our chances of having more frequent soul-nourishing and even ecstatic experiences.
Bachelard might say, our home (be it camper van or castle) is sacred because it supports a long-term relationship with the infinite.
So what other tips would French intellectuals (like Bachelard) have for creatives like you and me?
Tip 1: Honor Daydreaming
What would happen if artists classified domestic daydreaming as an act vital to our creative process?
I say we give ourselves permission from here on out.
Because artists need daydream.
We need daydream like pandas need bamboo.
Have you noticed quality daydreaming often involves a good window?
Windows and daydreams should be part of every creative’s toolkit.
Edward Hopper, Daydreaming and Windows
A journalist once asked Edward Hopper’s wife, the artist Josephine Nivison Hopper:
“What is the most difficult aspect of being married to a great artist?”
Hopper’s wife responded:
“It took me a long time to realize that when he is looking out the window, he is working.”
So are you.
Matisse’s Love Affair with Windows
Henri Matisse (1869-1954), one of the most inspired painters of the 20th century, was mad for a good window.
When asked why open windows were so often a part of his paintings, Matisse poetically explained that the magic of a window is — it’s not a wall.
Walls kindly protect us from the elements but:
“The wall around the window does not create two worlds.”
— Henri Matisse.
In other words, windows allow us to live in two worlds at once.
I think Matisse also loved windows because they allowed him to experience the beauty of places like his beloved Nice on the Riviera.
But from a safe distance.
Unlike his impressionist colleagues (obsessed with painting outdoors) Fauve phenom Henri Matisse preferred to spend most of his time in the confines of a cozy apartment.
Matisse was said to be happiest when tucked safely inside his self-designed magical interiors.
But only if they had good windows.
And maybe an odalisque or two.
(For a two-minute deep exploration of one of Matisse’s window paintings, check out the lovely video “Blue Window.”)
Tip 2: Honor Your Windows
I only remember to appreciate a good window when it rains.
Like many writers and artists, I love rain due to the fact it gives us another excuse to stay inside and read or work.
But it’s scarce where I live.
I even listen to fake rain when I’m desperate. (Here is my current fave rain generator; great for writing or painting to.)
A good window affords us the luxury of being in a driving rain without getting wet.
We see it impregnating the beach sand, or smile when we hear it plink-plunk on top of a neighbor’s steel trashcan lid.
All while being safe inside with our fluffy bunny slippers, a big mug of hot jasmine tea and a new tin of watercolors.
(Oh wait, that’s me. You have your own special slippers.)
Heaven courtesy of a window.
When I was reading about Matisse’s love of windows the other day it reminded me of poet Pat Schneider’s homage to the window and other silent things that companion and wait for us, inside our homes.
In the following poem, Schneider reminds us of the value of domestic things we take for granted.
THE PATIENCE OF ORDINARY THINGS
It is a kind of love, is it not?
How the cup holds the tea,
How the chair stands sturdy and foursquare,
How the floor receives the bottoms of shoes
Or toes. How soles of feet know
Where they’re supposed to be.
I’ve been thinking about the patience
Of ordinary things, how clothes
Wait respectfully in closets
And soap dries quietly in the dish,
And towels drink the wet
From the skin of the back.
And the lovely repetition of stairs.
And what is more generous than a window?
~ Pat Schneider
Another River: New and Selected Poems
Tip 3: Honor Ordinary Things
We all lose our center now and again in the land that Facebook and Twitter launched.
The thing is, only you know what’s truly important to you. And only you know how best to get your focus back on it.
But will you allow me one suggestion for how to slow down and line back up if you need to today?
Keep an ear open for a windchime.
Notice which window is your favorite window and ask yourself why.
If you liked this post and want more musings on wonder, head over to my article on scientist and dreamer Rachel Carson.
Or you might enjoy The Charmed Studio’s posts on O’Keeffe, Dali, van Gogh , or Frida Kahlo.
This post is dedicated to poet, storyteller and scholar, Dr. Anne Buxie (Tales by the Sea.) Ann sent me “The Patience of Ordinary Things” and other wondrous poems, books, and articles over the years, just when I needed them most.