The Walter Darby Bannard Archive

Monster of Irony (1990)

New York Times, November 4, 1990. Letter to the editor, with reply by Francoise Gilot.


Clash Of Cultures

To the Editor:

By saying that Francoise Gilot has total recall and by heading the continuation "Listening to Matisse and Picasso," The Times indicates that the "conversations" between Matisse, Picasso and Miss Gilot are actual, as if transcribed ["The Maid Was Ugly, the Meals Were Bad ..." Oct. 7].

They do not sound actual. There is only one "voice," and it sounds like an art-history videotape. Artists don't sit around talking like art books, pontificating about their "periods."

If these conversations are as contrived as they sound we ought to be told. People already think artists are oddballs. Please don't lead them to think we talk to each other like art critics!

Coral Gables, Fla.

The writer is the chairman of the department of art and art history at the University of Miami.

Miss Gilot replies:

In Europe, artists are preoccupied with the philosophical aspects of their work, and that's the way they talk.

In the introduction to the book, I wrote: "The dialogues are not verbatim; the visits to Matisse are not quite in chronological order, and at times several meetings are contracted in one. Painters have recurring preoccupations, their thoughts are cyclical rather than linear, and they are likely to come back again and again to certain topics, to problems they must solve in their own works. I narrate the visits as if one main theme was explored in each conversation, when in fact there was more randomness and repetition."