The copies of Matisse’s paintings were so unsettling to the all female jury (an irony in 1913 before women had the right to vote) they caused a collective fainting. The verdict was unanimous. The canvases were burned to the excitement of the crowd, and then, in a moment of pure Greek tragedy, the executioner stepped forward and the “shivering futurist, overcome by his own conscience, fell dead.” His body was carried to the other side of the Art Institute with onlookers in procession, ending in a humorous funeral where a student read a eulogy, concluding: “You were a living example of death in life; you were ignorant and corrupt, an insect that annoyed us, and it is best for you and best for us that you have died.” With this, they planned on burning Matisse in effigy but the police stepped in before the image of the French modernist could be set ablaze. Even for this performance, burning the artist went a bit too far.
Into the Canvas
Burning art or books (or even witches) holds this paradox for it is often not about the thing being burned as much as it is about maintaining an idea. Preservation often depends so much on destruction.
— a w uzup. „Le Luxe I” (1907) —