Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Henri Matisse (by Katja Gilman)

Matisse was born in 1869 to a middle-class family. He grew up in Bohain-en-Vermandois, until he moved to Paris to study law. He returned as a law clerk but complained of anxiety and his miserable job. When he was twenty years old, he contracted appendicitis and had to be bedbound for several months. During this time, he discovered the comfort of isolation and the possibilities of art. 

Woman with a Hat
Oil on Canvas
1’ 0” x 0’ 9”    

After recovering, Matisse again moved to Paris, but, this time, to study art. Failing his entrance exam to an arts school, Matisse joined Gustave Moreau’s art studio. Moreau had a symbolist attitude toward painting, telling his students “colors must be thought, dreamed, and examined.” Matisse ended up adopting this philosophy of color. He later got accepted into the arts school, but he still continued to work with Moreau in his art studio.
During the late 1800s, Matisse started his life-long collection of avant-garde art, even though he had very limited money. With the start of his gallery and the influence of Post-Impressionists’ color use, Matisse finally moved past Impressionism and sought consolation in color for his expressive and monumental paintings.

The Open Window
Oil on Canvas
1’ 10” x 1’ 6”    

Matisse worked with Andre Derain during the summer of 1905 to develop a new style of art involving bright light and pure colors. The subject of his art had to be peaceful and devoid of anything negative or depressing, in order to create a scene that transcends time and space. He focused on exaggerating and deforming his subjects, which contributed to a “decorative” feel that resulted from the painter’s emotions guiding the choice of color and line. This new style was called Fauvism, and it shocked the public when it was first showcased. The spectators thought that the artists were trying to make them look like fools. The art was so free and colorful, it was interpreted as a mockery to everyday life.

Le bonheur de vivre
Oil on Canvas
5’ 9.5” x 7’ 10.75”    

Even though the Fauvist Movement was very short-lived, it made a great impact on future art, especially inspiring later abstract art. The best way Fauvism and Matisse can be summed up is through Matisse’s own words:

“What I dream of is an art of balance … an art which could be for every mental worker, for the businessman, as well as the man of letters, for example, a soothing, calming, influence on the mind something like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.”

Les toits de Collioure
Oil on canvas
1’ 11.4” x 2’ 5”    

I chose this artist because his name stood out to me when I was browsing the art books at Lilly Library. I have of him a few times during high school, but I could not recall what artworks he created or what “Fauvism” even was. I am quite satisfied with my choice of artist because I found out interesting information about him as well as the evolution of art during that time period.

Works Cited

Albertina, Vienna. Matisse and the Fauves. Doris Hansmann, Kerstin Schutte Wienand Verlag, Cologne, 2013.

Dabrowski, Magdalina. “Henri Matisse (1869-1954).” The Met, October 2004. https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/mati/hd_mati.htm. Accessed 20 February 2018.

“Henri Matisse Biography, Art, and Analysis of Works.” The Art Story, http://www.theartstory.org/artist-matisse-henri.htm. Accessed 20 February 2018.

Leymarie. Fauvisme. Editions D’Art Albert Skira, 1959.

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