Sophie Matisse: Art & Chess

Sophie Matisse Art Chess ‘Palladium’
Sophie Matisse Art Chess ‘Alice in Wonderland’

Marcel Duchamp – the famous, notorious and undeniably highly influential artist of the 20th, was step-grandfather to internationally acclaimed contemporary artist Sophie Matisse.  Duchamp was not just an artist who was at the forefront of new art and thinking, he was an avid and highly competent chess player.  In fact, Duchamp earned the title of Chess Master in France.  His step-granddaughter, Matisse is also an artist with chess in her bones.  She recalls learning the game from her father, the inventor and sculptor Paul Matisse during her childhood. Matisse remembers with great fondness, spending the summers at her grandmother Teeny’s house and playing on a chess table that had two clocks on each side and with pieces designed by Marcel Duchamp himself. Even today she claims never to travel without her 1972 edition of the classic book Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess.

With a background steeped in chess, it is little wonder that Sophie Matisse combined her love of chess with her art and designed numerous chess sets which have been exhibited chess sets for several exhibitions including, “The Art of the Game” (2009), which ran alongside of “Beyond the Border International Contemporary Art Fair”, San Diego and “Ladies’ Knight” (2015-2016) which was held at the World Chess Hall of Fame, St Louis.

Most recently, we are proud to announce that Sophie Matisse has designed and hand-painted three stunning chess sets exclusively for Purling London.  For each set she has taken inspiration from a different source.  “Alice in Wonderland” brings a touch of magic and playfulness to the game with its gold leaf, candy colours and slightly skewed squares.  French Pop Artist Alain Jacquet, Sophie Matisse’s husband until his untimely death in 2008, provides the inspiration for her “Camouflage” chess set.  For this set, Sophie juxtaposes grey, a dull, “rainy day” colour with audacious and exuberant neon pink.  The two colours make for an ironic marriage, but yet, Matisse explains, they coexist beautifully.  In chess there is opposition and tension, however, the pieces of both sides inhabit the same board and create beautiful and ever-changing patterns as the game progresses.   Matisse muses on the wonderful dream of war and peace coexisting, just as the grey and neon pink of this chess board do.  Matisse adopts a playful tone for “Palladium” which was inspired by the English playwright, composer, director, actor and singer Noël Coward.  This startling set, incorporating palladium leaf and with eye-popping colourful-headed pawns can’t help but reflect the flamboyance of Coward.  With the chess board itself, Matisse adds a dollop of wit too – it was inspired by Noël Coward’s kitchen floor tiles in his estate in Jamaica.  We’re sure that Sir Noël Coward would have enjoyed this bright and humorous set.

Her Noël Coward-inspired set is presently on display in the Great Writing Room in Harrods.  Without a doubt, Matisse’s chess set will make for a spectacular and unique centre-piece for someone’s home or any stylish interior.  As indeed, will her other splendid and show-stopping chess sets.  For more information about these Art Chess sets by Sophie Matisse, please get in touch via our Contact Form below and to purchase, please visit our shop.

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