"I didn't know such paintings existed. I had seen some things that were involved with color abstraction, some Picassos and Braques, but then when I saw the Matisses I didn't know what hit me. The experience threw me into a whole new emotional world of color and feeling." - Jane Piper on first seeing Matisse at the Barnes Collection.
Albert C. Barnes was Matisse's most ardent patron in America; the Barnes Collection eventually included about five dozen of his paintings. In 1930 when Barnes met the painter, he commissioned a three panel mural that would eventually span the Main Gallery at the Barnes.
Jane Piper (1916-1991) grew up in Philadelphia and spent a year in France before studying at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art. She studied privately with Arthur B. Carles, another neglected modernists, whom she regarded as her most important teacher. The influence of Matisse was noticed early on in her career; Piper, like Matisse, created a sense of space through her use of color. She said that she finally captured the sense of space that she wanted on the canvas through the liberal use of white, that this color corresponded to what she felt about the space. She preferred still life painting above all because it fit easily into her way of life, allowing her to organize and control the placement of the objects. That Piper was able to achieve this through white, turning an absence into a presence, is comparable to Matisse's use of black but more subtle and mysterious.
Image: Jane Piper, Almost A Cross - 1988, oil on canvas, Munson Williams Proctor Arts Institute, Utica.