Friday, October 2, 2015

Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse
Born: December 31, 1869 - Le Cateau-Cambresis, Picardy, France
Died: November 3, 1954 - Nice, France

Henri Matisse, French painter and sculptor, is known as one of the great expressionists of the 20th century. Famous for his creative colors and Fauvist style paintings, Matisse is considered a rival to Pablo Picasso due to the importance of his creations. Although interested in Cubism, Matisse rejected it, instead choosing to use colors as a foundation for decorative, expressive and monumental works.

Why Matisse?
A notable member of the fauvist movement, Henri Matisse embodies a prime example of avant-garde artistic thinking that emerged in the post-Impressionist and other neo-Impressionism paintings. Matisse allowed for the notions of breaking through the conventional restrictions of classical art to become more of a common reality, eventually allowing for abstract expressionism and other post-modernist “pop” art in the latter 20th century. Matisse was a key player in not only understanding that art does not have to be conventional in order to be respected, but also in redefining art - making it acceptable for both viewers and artists to think outside the box and leave beauty to the eye of the beholder.

Life & Influence
Henri Matisse's career had different stylistic periods. However, his overall aim was always to discover "the essential character of things" and create art "of balance, purity, and serenity". [4]
In between changing art studios early in his career, Matisse set his revolutionary artistic agenda. He abolished perspective, and removed shadows, thus rejecting the academic distinction between line and color. With this act, he attempted to break a traditional artistic way evolved and accepted by the Western world for centuries by utilizing “a conscious subjectivity in the place of the traditional illusion of objectivity”. [4] He credited his newfound thinking to the works of Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, and Vincent van Gogh.

The term Fauve, meaning “wild beast”, comes from a contemporary art critic attending the exhibition mentioning the artists who painted bold, distorted images - quite unlike others of their generation. Emerging from this group was Henri Matisse, considered as the leader of the Fauvists for his experimental approach to painting. He later credits much of his stylistic advancements to the influence of “pointilism” by Cézanne, as well as Japanese and North-African art, which were heavily infused with vibrant senses of color.

When Fauvist works were first exhibited at the 1905 Salon d'Automne in Paris they created a scandal. Eyewitness accounts tell of laughter emanating from the room where they were displayed. Still, this did not deter Matisse. He continued on with his work, emphasizing the “emotional power of sinuous lines, strong brushwork and acid-bright colors.” [1]

Famous Works
The woman with a hat (1905):
Interpretation:  Matisse attacked conventional portraiture with this image of his wife. Matisse roughly applies splashes of brilliant color across her face, hat, dress, and even the background. This shocked his contemporaries when he sent the picture to the 1905 Salon d'Automne as it was his first true example of “fauvist” painting, choosing colors to paint a portrait of his wife that his peers would find unsettling.

Joy of Life (1905-1906):
Interpretation: Joy of Live is the second most important of Matisse’s imaginary compositions. He used a landscape he had painted previously, and added additional decorations by ideas drawn from varying artistic works from around the world. The scene is made up of independent motifs arranged to form a complete composition. This work is notable for its broad fields of color and linear figures, which seems to be a clear rejection of Paul Signac's celebrated Pointillism.

The Dance II (1932)
Interpretation: Matisse initially created a maquette for the mural out of cut paper, which he could rearrange as he determined the composition. However, the finished work was too small for the space due to being given incorrect measurements. Instead of adding a decorative border, Matisse decided to recompose the entire piece, resulting in a dynamic composition, in which bodies seem to leap across abstracted space of pink and blue fields.

Works Cited
[1] Editors. "Henri Matisse Biography." A&E Networks Television, n.d. Web. 02 Oct. 2015.
[2]Giry, Marcel. Fauvism, Origins and Development. New York: Alpine Fine Arts Collection, 1982. Print.
[3]Mertz, Renée DeVoe, and Stephanie D'Alessandro. The Age of Picasso and Matisse: Modern Art at the Art Institute of Chicago. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
[4]"The Personal Life of Henri Matisse." Biography of Henri Matisse. N.p., 2011. Web. 02 Oct. 2015.
[5]Spurling, Hilary. Matisse the Master: A Life of Henri Matisse. London: Penguin, 2005. Print.

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