Icarus: one of Matisse’s Most Famous Cut-Outs


In the early 1940s, Matisse underwent a serious and invasive surgery as part of treatment for intestinal cancer. After the operation, he was a very different person, lacking the energy and strength to be on his feet for long stretches of time at the easel painting on a canvas.

However, he was about to start a revolutionary new phase in his artistic life. Despite his physical weakness, his mind seemed to be ablaze with creativity and many say he was given a second life. This resurrection manifested itself mainly through a new art form he began to develop at the time: his famous cut-outs. Instead of painting, Matisse would now spend his days in bed or in a wheelchair, cutting out, with huge tailor scissors, abstract forms directly from gouache-painted sheets of paper, and then, with the help of assistants, pin them against a white background in striking and original compositions.

He would constantly move the pieces around until he was fully satisfied with the final result of these “collage-like” designs. The colors were vibrant and pure, lending the composition a life-affirming quality. Icarus  is one of the most famous works from this period.

Icarus. 1947. Illustration for the book Jazz.

Icarus. 1947. Illustration for the book Jazz.

The Legend of Icarus

 In Greek mythology, Icarus and his father Daedalus, a master craftsman from ancient Athens, were made prisoners on the island of Crete after helping Ariadne and Theseus escape from the Minotaur’s labyrinth, which Daedalus himself had designed for King Minus.

The Minotaur was a creature with the head of a bull and the body of a man who lived in the center of the labyrinth

Daedalus plotted to escape from his prison by making wings of feather and wax for himself and his son. However, he warned Icarus against flying too close to the sun because his wings would melt. Icarus, in the typical fashion of bold young men, disobeyed his father’s instructions and soared to the heights, coming dangerously close to the sun. His wings melted and he plunged to the sea, drowning. The story of Icarus is usually used as a cautionary tale against excessive ambition.

Many critics and viewers suspect that there is an alternative source of inspiration to the Icarus cut-out. What do you think it might be? What may this work represent if not necessarily the legend of Icarus?

Imagine that this work is about the horrors of war instead. After all, Matisse put it together soon after the end of the Second World War. In this case, what do you think each element of the cut-out stands for? Think about this interpretation and try to see the elements of the work in the light of this new context. It will add a lot to it.

If you wish to read more about Matisse’s cut-outs, please refer to our previous blog post: http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1kq

For those of you who are English Teachers and love Matisse and art in general, we offer a wonderful collection of didactic eBooks for the students to practice vocabulary, speaking and writing, based on the works of famous painters: TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART. The series is comprised of 7 books so far, and features works by Matisse, Picasso, Caravaggio, Monet, Norman Rockwell and Vincent van Gogh. For further information on how to download the materials, please click here: http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-1lS

Click on the image above to learn more about the advantages of TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART.

Click on the image above to learn more about the advantages of TEACHING ENGLISH WITH ART.

Au revoir

Jorge Sette.

 

 

More storytelling tips for marketers


You may already know that the new buzz word in marketing is storytelling. You may also wonder why it took the marketing gurus so long to realize that stories resonate strongly with humans beings, and therefore, with clients. Brands must tell a story to the customers, and good marketers should, therefore, learn as much as possible about the craft of storytelling to be able to create and project a more impactful and relevant positioning in the minds of their audience.

We already started discussing the mythological structure of storytelling in a previous post (please refer to “The Power of Storytelling, the Mythological Structure”- http://wp.me/p4gEKJ-F2  – you may want to read it before you continue). Now we pick up where we left off, and begin to cover the kinds of characters we come across in muscular and enduring stories.

The renowned psychoanalyst Carl Jung put forward the theory that the elements (themes, topics, characters, plot) commonly found in dreams are the same ones present in the mythologies of all peoples at different times. He called them archetypes.

Joseph Campbell, the famous American mythologist, went further to propose that all stories have basically the same structure. In his seminal book THE HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES, he identifies and explains the phases that a typical hero or protagonist goes through.

Hollywood was quick to capitalize on Campbell’s powerful ideas and created a simplified memo for scriptwriters spelling out the stages of the hero’s journey and the typical characters found in mythological stories. When used with creativity and originality, these phases are hardly noticeable on the surface of a good movie, and the characters may take on many different forms, but the closer the deep structure of the plot remains to its mythological backbone the stronger it will resonate with the viewers.

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Antonio Canova’s Theseus and the Centaur

We covered the stages of the story in a previous post. Now, who are the usual characters in powerful stories? Here’s the list, and its implications for marketing:

The hero: this is the protagonist or the representation of  your customer. He will have to overcome problems and bypass obstacles to get to his goal. He has a strong need that must be met – by your solution or product.

The shadow: this usually represents the hero’s opponent or dark side. In marketing, we may think of it as our competition, or any flaws our products may have that must be corrected or features that need to be enhanced.

The mentor: in stories, they appear as older and wiser men or women, whose job is to guide and aid the hero along the path to accomplishing his goal. Marketers may use this concept in their messages and positioning. Think of the communications with your customers as ways of mentoring them.

The herald: this is the character that announces to the hero that he will need to act upon his needs and desires to have them sorted out. He pushed the hero forward. What better metaphor for a CALL TO ACTION? Your “call to action” needs to be included in all the communications with the client, your hero. It’s your job to tell them what to do next. Clarify the path.

The threshold guardians: these are people who hinder the hero’s progress at different plot points. They are not necessarily evil, but they will be obstacles to overcome. Think of them metaphorically as any obstruction on the client’s path to the micro or macro conversions you set up: faulty or unhelpful landing pages, redirect errors, unclear info about the product, interruptions or problems on the shopping cart path, etc. Be an ally to the hero and help him overcome these difficulties.

The trickster: that is a character that provides comic relief in stories. Also, these pranksters may provide useful information through their jokes. As a marketer, keep in mind that what people need, through your messages (you blog posts, for example), is to have info, develop their knowledge or to have fun. Don’t underestimate the power of comedy. This is a powerful way to win the customers’ hearts and minds.

The shapeshifter: usually someone who keeps changing their form or intentions. We never know if he’s an ally or an enemy. Or he may start off as an enemy and become an ally eventually. As a marketer, I think it’s very useful to see testimonials and comments on social media sites as typical shapeshifters.  They will sometimes align with your intentions in helping the hero get to his (and your) goal, but they can also badmouth you to the point of putting the whole journey in jeopardy. Shapeshifters need to me monitored closely on the Internet and responded to immediately. This is a huge part of your job as a marketer.

We hope this analysis of the main archetypes will help you structure the story of your brand more effectively. In future posts, we will carry on imparting more tips to help you hone your skills as a storyteller and marketer.

Au revoir

Jorge Sette.