Henri Matisse – the Power of Color [1869-1954; Fauvism ]

At the beginning of the 20th c. the desire for vitality in Europe was rising. In the international conservatory artistic system this desire erupted into paintings that just did not want to follow the rules. When Henri Matisse presented Woman with Hat (lower right) in 1905 at an independent exhibition, he provoked one of the art related public scandals that Paris loved ever since Manet. The crowds gathered around to mock the painting and a journalist named the group of painters lead by Matisse as “fauves” (wild beasts).

Matisse had a taste for ridicule himself: extremely serious, a 34-year-old self-perfectionist from the industrial NE of France, who pushed forward his art by studying he most provocative avangardists (the Post-Impressionism, as Roger Fry, the art critic, will call them in 1910). In his wife’s portrait there are influences from Seurat (dividing pigments) but also Cezanne (using the empty canvas as support of the painting composition) or Gauguin (clearly contoured colors).

In the 1907 Paris, ‘le succes de scandale’ obtained by Matisse inspired a 25 years old-young Spanish, Pablo Picasso, to try to better him. But he deserves his own part.

A nice article about Matisse here:


His studio was a world within the world: a place of equilibrium that, for sixty continuous years, produced images of comfort, refuge, and balanced satisfaction. Nowhere in Matisse’s work does one feel a trace of the alienation and conflict which modernism, the mirror of our century, has so often reflected. His paintings are the equivalent to that ideal place, scaled away from the assaults and erosion of history, that Baudelaire imagined in his poem L’Invitation al Voyage

Fauvism: (1898 – 1908) http://wwar.com/masters/movements/fauvism.html

Coming from the French word fauve, meaning “wild animals,” Fauvism rejected traditional painting and sculpture ideals and emphasized modern concepts, notably machines and motion. Inspired by the late impressionist works of Paul Gauguin and Vincent Van Gogh who pushed the boundaries with their bold color choices, the movement took this idea a step further to include simplified design. The first Fauvist exhibition occurred in 1905.

Pointillism and Post-impressionist inspired the development of the Fauvist movement. More specifically, Fauvist’s work was derived from primitive and tribal art; also Paul Gauguin’s color choice and style. Although the movement was short-lived, it had a profound influence on the development of the Expressionists.

The primary focus of the Fauvist movement is non-naturalistic and vibrant color. In addition to Gauguin’s influence, Vincent Van Gogh’s palette was inspirational to the Fauves. Their aim was to express emotion through color choice. Fauvism died out after 1908, when the group went separate ways, many turning to Cubism.

– Text from “The Shock of the New”, by Robert Hughes

Artists: (biography & artworks)

Derain, Andre – 1880 – 1954
Dongen, Kees van – 1877 – 1968
Jawlensky, Alexei – 1864 – 1941
La Fresnaye, Roger de – 1885 – 1925
Marquet, Albert – 1875 – 1947
Matisse, Henri – 1869 – 1954
Morrice, James Wilson – 1865 – 1924
Vlaminck, Maurice de – 1876 – 1958
Zorach, William – 1889 – 1966

1902 A Glimpse of Notre Dame in the Late Afternoon

1904-05 Luxe, calm et volupte

1905 Portrait of Andre Derain

1906 Self-Portrait

1907 The Blue Nude (Souvenir of Biskra)

1908 The Girl with Green Eyes

1909 Bathers by a River

1910 La Musique

1910 Dance (Hermitage version)

1911 The Red Studio

1917 The Music Lesson (La lecon de musique)

1925 Decorative Figure on an Ornamental Ground

1937 Femme au manteau violet (Woman in a Purple Coat)

1940 The Rumanian Blouse

1947 Destiny

1948 Interior with an Egyptian Curtain


6 responses to “Henri Matisse – the Power of Color [1869-1954; Fauvism ]

    • Yes, I think it’s a little bit underestimated, taking into account the short duration but I find the paintings very beautiful. Well they are if you like color.

  1. most engaging i suppose the inadequesies of the mind dissocociate the subjective in art from the obvious,however my verbal dexterity is followed by a far less catatonic or rather politically inflammatory question. where did he get his insperation from.

    • That’s hard to answer. Especially now, when you have access to everything and basically anything can inspire you…
      I think creativity is a consequence of our common sense and our life experience. Plus a result of our genetic inheritance.

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