Sunday, March 3, 2013

Henri Matisse

by Fei Chen 
Henri Matisse, a French artist known for his use of color, is widely considered as a leading figure in modern art. He was born in Le Cateau-Cambrésis, France in 1869 and discovered his love for art during a year long recovery from appendicitis in 1890. In 1900, he moved to Paris and enrolled in art school, and a couple years later, met Picasso; the two became lifelong friends. Matisse died of a heart attack in 1954.
Matisse disregarded traditional art techniques, such as perspective and the distinction between line and color and was one of the leaders of the Fauvism style, which used saturated, unmixed colors and broad brushstrokes to produce a feeling of spontaneity. I saw an exhibit of the Cone sisters’ collection of Matisse’s work at the Jewish Museum in New York City two summers ago and was drawn to Matisse’s use of color and his abstract interpretation of the subjects. Rather than trying to capture the look of a scene, he tried to capture of essence and emotions of the experience. He is quoted saying, “I do not literally paint that table, but the emotion it produces upon me.”
One of my favorite Matisse pieces, Open Window, Collioure, is an example of the Fauve School. 
Open Window, Collioure, 1905

Although he is known for his paintings, Matisse considered his drawings to be an intimate means of expression. His favorite subject was the female form, and his drawings were very evocative. He used drawings to inform his paintings and help him work out compositional and stylistic problems and to capture the emotion of the topic.

This is a study drawing for Pink Nude, one of Matisse’s most famous paintings.

Study for Pink Nude, 1935

Large Reclining Nude (The Pink Nude), 1935

In the late 1940s and 50s, Matisse’s drawings became bolder, his lines became thicker, and the forms became more simplified. For example, from his personal collection, Woman Covering her Face with her Hand depicts much stronger lines than his previous study drawing of Pink Nude.

Woman Covering her Face with her Hand, 1951

Blum, Shirley N. “Henri Matisse: rooms with a view.” London: Thames & Hudson, 2010. 

Dabrowski, Magdalena. "Henri Matisse (1869–1954)". In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New
York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art. October 2004. 3 March 2013. <>.

Henri Matisse. “Matisse: Life and Painting.” 2011. 3 March 2013. <>.

Levitov, Karen. “Collecting Matisse and modern masters: the Cone sisters of Baltimore.” New York: Jewish Museum, 2011. 

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