Henri Matisse made it look easy, but don't be fooled -- those vibrant, lyrical scenes and simple, geometric portraits which look tossed off the tip of his paintbrush actually took weeks, sometimes months to create. A perfectionist, he once mused, "Instinct... [more]
Henri Matisse made it look easy, but don't be fooled -- those vibrant, lyrical scenes and simple, geometric portraits which look tossed off the tip of his paintbrush actually took weeks, sometimes months to create. A perfectionist, he once mused, "Instinct must be thwarted just as one prunes the branches of a tree so that it will grow better." The surfaces of his paintings reveal that he constantly changed his mind, scraping the thin paint off his canvases and painting them over and over again.
Often regarded as the most important French painter of the twentieth century, Matisse began painting while recovering from an operation. He became the leader of the Fauves, a group of artists whose style emphasized vibrant, intense color and dynamic brushstrokes. The Fauves first exhibited together in 1905, and their bold forms and brilliant palettes shocked the Paris art world. Matisse's own career was long and varied, however, and his work traversed several styles from Fauvism to Impressionism to something approaching Abstractionism. It also reflected a myriad of influences, including the decorative quality of Near-Eastern art, the stylized forms of African masks, the vivid colors of the French Impressionists, and the simplified geometry of the Cubists.
Matisse always gravitated towards the beautiful, painting subjects with astonishing power and simplicity. He desired, above all, a serenity in his work. He once said he dreamt of an art that would be "like a good armchair." Dispensing with detail and flouting the conventional rules of drawing and perspective, he instead preferred the use of strong color and line to create a sense of movement. As art critic Clement Greenberg noted, "His prismatic colors became pearlier and furrier through their juxtaposition with non-prismatic colors." Matisse was, in the end, the ultimate colorist, believing that harmony and arrangement of color was as critical in communicating meaning as subject matter. [show less]