Tuesday, December 17, 2013


kuba velvet, shibori and mirror embroidered wool, bogolanfini mud cloth
When Henri Matisse was in his last decades, he hung Kuba fabrics from the Congo on his walls.  He did this to inspire him.  "I can't wait to see what they will reveal to me"  he said.
"I'm astonished to realize that, although I've seen them often enough, they've never interested me before as they do today"  Matisse wrote about his African velvets.
"I never tire of looking at them for long periods of time, even the simplest of them, and waiting for something to come to me from the mystery of their instinctive geometry."  H Matisse
Matisse used textiles to liberate his painting from the classicism of his day.
Dotted.  Striped.  Billowing.  Flat.
Another reality.
His paintings placed figures in front of his fabric collection, wearing his collection.  The flattened decorative motifs animate the backgrounds, suggesting a "new" reality - neither 2 dimensional or 3 dimensional.
He grew up in Northern France.  His ancestors and neighbours were renowned weavers.  "the weavers of his home town prided themselves on outstripping all rivals at modernity's cutting edge."  (the photos of Matisse and all quotes are from the book, Matisse: His Art and His Textiles.
Matisse 'restarted' his engine as a painter by setting out a still life on a length of fabric.

My own collection of African textiles is pictured above.  Inspired by Matisse, I hung it up in our living room in October - and have enjoyed looking at them for two months.  The white dots in the left weaving are little mirrors that reflect the light.  The central strongly rhythmic black and white fabric in the middle is bogolanfini mud cloth - and the three brownish ones are kuba cloths. 


  1. we have a lot of kuba cloth here and mud cloth, since we travel to africa. i am always looking at it and thinking about weaving. it is an inspiration. i love thinking about people that did it.

  2. Now that it is December, I have to do Christmas decor and so am taking the African fabrics down.

    I have loved them up. Felt kindred with Henri and with the makers of those heart felt earthy textiles.

  3. Thank you Judy…..I have that book (somewhere)…and as I unpack my life to fit into a little place I bought I will look forward to finding and 'displaying' my own collection. I LOVE seeing yours. I will share. It will be like Christmas…Oh, it IS Christmas…;-)

  4. I didn't know about Matisse passion for textiles. Well, I knew he used them as a backward in most of his paintings, but anything else. I will look for this book.

    It is a great idea to have a changing exhibitions of inspiring textiles hanging in front of ourselves. I love having many windows at home but I miss not having more walls...

  5. I find what inspires great artists to be extremely interesting ... so individual in how it happens and of course, the "why" of it all. Knowing nothing about African textiles myself [except a personal response to so many of them] you've brought a new view, Judy. That's a fine wall collage ;>]]

  6. That Matisse book is one of my faves. You have some very nice pieces of African fabric - too bad to take them down. But I call it "rotating the collection". I'm sure something else that's lovely will take its place. Merry Christmas, Judy.

  7. i looked at your collection…and then out my window and wondered at the patterning repeating. one set african, one set north country. seems right.

  8. He also owned two Tahitian tifaifai's and I am certain they inspired his later cutouts and the fabric he made for ( name escapes me was it Ascher & co) He was given one in Tahiti and then wrote to his friend there to ask for another- it's not much written about but the forms are so organic and so like tifaifai forms.

  9. I never tire of looking at patterned textiles from all over the world. Your collection is lovely. I didn't remember this about Matisse, thanks for reminding me. Its always good to know just how to inspire "out of the box thinking" for ourselves, I wonder what his other strategies were!

  10. Two of my most beloved sources of inspiration - African cloth and Matisse. The Kuba cloth has such a sense of movement - the flow of spontaneity within a grid. It is meditative and mysterious and somehow very satisfying to look at. I spent a great deal of time studying it when I was back a university a few years ago and it inspired a number of pieces.
    It is certainly wonderful to see your collection. Beautiful pieces.

  11. thanks for sharing your African collection - beautiful. What a wonderful source of inspiration

  12. these are beautiful - i am not familiar with african cloths, but i could become addicted. the cloth with mirrors and the kuba cloth with dots remind me of your yin yin cloth.

  13. Dear Judy - which deep influence african art has till today!!
    I also pinned my bakuba at the wall of my working room - has something quiet as well as moving.

    Have a wonderful Christmas time - best wishes Monika

  14. Thats so strange. I was lying in bed two nights ago thinking I need to hang up my kuba cloths. They are so inspiring and its a shame to keep them in a box. Lovely to see your collection with them.
    I wish you an inspired New Year. Thank you for the beauty you've shared in the past.


Thank you for taking the time to connect. Much appreciated.xx