The Matisse show of cut-outs at the National Gallery of Art could ruin a good thing for a lot of people.

The highlight of the show is the work which the aged and ailing artist did from his sick-bed when he was unable to paint. Because he couldn't stand at the easel, he worked with scissors and paper to cut out some of his finest work. What kind of an example is that for people who don't feel up to creating?

The tradition of the artist is that, unlike his inferiors, he cannot labor simply because it is Monday morning or baby needs shoes. We all know that inspiration is a necessary but elusive requirement for art, and that not being in the mood - never mind having a doctor's certificate - is a sufficient excuse to do nothing. A really sensitive artist can exist on this indefinitely. In a society that worships creativity, credit is given for what might have been accomplished, if only things had been different.

Not that we tolerate their doing absolutely nothing. A creative person who is not creating is certainly expected to go around cocktail parties explaining why he doesn't feel like it.

Being physically sick is more of an excuse than is needed - psychological ailments, however minor, are accepted. Mastisse was not only hospitalized, but very old and in the middle of a war. Yet he betrayed the profession by getting busily to work.

Aside from the damage to other artists, do you want that kind of example set for your little creative children? It will end with them home with the sniffles, getting little scraps of paper all over their bedclothes and the floor.