gigatos | November 10, 2021
Henri Matisse , full name: Henri Émile Benoît Matisse († November 3, 1954 in Cimiez, now a district of Nice), was a French painter, graphic artist, draftsman and sculptor.
Together with Pablo Picasso, he is one of the most important artists of Classical Modernism. Along with André Derain, he is considered a pioneer and main representative of Fauvism, which propagated the detachment from Impressionism and represents the first artistic movement of the 20th century.
Matisse”s work is carried by a planar color scheme and tension-filled lines. In his paintings, the coloration, the playful composition and the lightness of his pictorial themes are the result of long studies.
With his silhouettes (gouaches découpées) created in the 1940s – one example is the artist”s book Jazz – Matisse, who was seriously ill, created a late work that brings his efforts at reduction to a conclusion and, with its colorfulness and ornamentation, is considered the high point of his artistic career. The artist considered the Chapel of the Rosary in Vence, which he planned and decorated, inaugurated in 1951, to be his masterpiece.
His stylistic innovations influenced modern art. Thus, the abstract expressionists in the USA repeatedly referred to his work.
Childhood and education (1869-1898)
Henri Matisse, son of Émile Matisse and his wife Héloïse, née Gérard, was born on his grandparents” farm in Le Cateau-Cambrésis. His parents ran a drugstore and seed business in Bohain-en-Vermandois; Matisse grew up there. In 1872, his brother Émile Auguste was born. His father wanted his eldest son to take over his parents” business. Henri, however, after attending the humanistic Henri Martin High School in Saint-Quentin from 1882 to 1887, decided to study law in Paris, which he did for two years.
During a brief stint as a paralegal in Saint-Quentin in 1889, Matisse took drawing classes at the École Quentin de la Cour in the morning hours. In 1890, after an appendectomy, the consequences of which confined him to bed for a year, he began painting. He gave up his legal career in 1891, returned to Paris, and entered the Académie Julian, where salon painter William Adolphe Bouguereau, among others, taught. Matisse wanted to prepare himself for the entrance examination to the École des Beaux-Arts. However, he did not pass it.
Matisse also attended the École des Arts décoratifs (School of Decorative Arts), where he met Albert Marquet, with whom he had a long friendship. In 1895, after passing the entrance exam to the École des Beaux-Arts, they both became students of the Symbolist painter Gustave Moreau, in whose class they had already been accepted as guest students in 1893. Matisse became the father of a daughter, Marguerite († 1982), in 1894; her mother was Camille (Caroline) Joblaud, a woman he employed as a model and who was his mistress.
During a stay in Brittany in 1896, Matisse was introduced to the Impressionist color palette by his traveling companion, the painter Émile Auguste Wéry (1868-1935), who was his Parisian neighbor from Quai Saint-Michel 19. During this period, he began copying classical works in the Louvre, and exhibited five paintings for the first time at the Salon of the Société nationale des beaux-arts. In 1897 and 1898, he visited the painter John Peter Russell on Belle-Île, an island off the coast of Brittany. Russell introduced him to the Impressionist style of painting and introduced him to the work of Vincent van Gogh. Matisse”s painting style changed fundamentally, and he later stated, “Russell was my teacher, and Russell explained color theory to me.”
On January 10, 1898, Henri Matisse married Amélie Noellie Parayre. On the advice of Camille Pissarro, he then traveled to London to study the works of Turner. At the same time, he spent his honeymoon there with Amélie, which the couple, returning briefly to Paris, continued from February 9 in Ajaccio, Corsica. The marriage produced two sons, Jean Gérard (1899-1976) and Pierre (1900-1989).
Marguerite was welcomed into the family; Matisse loved his daughter very much and often painted portraits of her. She later married the art critic and philosopher Georges Duthuit; shortly before her death, she and her son Claude Duthuit edited the catalog raisonné of her father”s prints.
When Matisse”s teacher Gustave Moreau died, he left the École des Beaux-Arts in 1899 because of differences with Moreau”s successor Fernand Cormon. After studying again briefly at the Académie Julian, he took courses with Eugène Carrière, who was a friend of the sculptor Auguste Rodin. Matisse met his later companions André Derain and his friend Maurice de Vlaminck here. He painted with Albert Marquet in the Jardin du Luxembourg and attended sculpture classes in the evenings. That same year he bought the painting The Three Bathers by Paul Cézanne from Vollard. Despite severe financial worries, he kept the work, which exerted a far-reaching influence on his thinking and creative work, until 1936, the year in which he gave the painting as a gift to the Museum of Fine Arts in the Petit Palais in Paris.
Crisis years (1900-1905)
At the Académie Rodin, Matisse attended evening classes in 1900 and worked under the direction of sculptor Antoine Bourdelle with little initial success. Due to a lack of income – his wife”s modiste business did not yield enough income to support himself and the children often had to be left with their grandparents – he fell into a severe financial crisis and took work as a decorative painter. Together with Albert Marquet, Matisse painted garlands and frame decorations for the décor of the 1900 World”s Fair, which was held at the Grand Palais in Paris. The work was exhausting, so he returned to Bohain exhausted to recuperate. In those days Matisse was so discouraged that he thought of giving up painting.
After Matisse had overcome his crisis, he sought art collectors and exhibition opportunities. In February 1902, he participated in a joint exhibition of the newly founded B. Weill Gallery. In April and June of that year, Berthe Weill was the first gallery owner to sell works by him. A first solo exhibition of his work was held in 1904 at the French art dealer Ambroise Vollard. In the summer of the same year, at the instigation of Paul Signac, Matisse traveled to Saint-Tropez and began to paint pictures in the style of Neo-Impressionism.
Emergence of Fauvism (1905)
Matisse spent the summer of 1905 with André Derain and at times with Maurice de Vlaminck in Collioure, a fishing village on the Mediterranean. This stay became a significant turning point in his work. Thus, during this period, in collaboration with Derain, a style crystallized that went down in art history under the name of Fauvism. The movement received its name when the small group of like-minded painters, consisting of Matisse, André Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck, showed their paintings for the first time in an exhibition at the Salon d”Automne in Paris in the fall of 1905, earning outrage from the public and art critics.
The critic Louis Vauxcelles referred to the artists as “Fauves” (“The Wild Beasts”). His commentary “Donatello chez les fauves” was published in the magazine Gil Blas on October 17, 1905, and entered common usage. The focus of the criticism was Matisse”s starkly colored painting Femme au chapeau (Woman in a Hat). Leo Stein, a brother of Gertrude Stein, bought the painting for 500 francs. This “scandal success” drove up Matisse”s market value. The Steins were also among his patrons in the future. The Fauvist group dissolved again as early as 1907.
Today, the Chemin du Fauvisme in Collioure commemorates the emergence of Fauvism there: reproductions of Matisse”s and Derain”s paintings created there are displayed on a circular path in 19 places around the town.
Acquaintance with Picasso (1906)
On March 20, 1906, Matisse showed his new work, Lebensfreude (Joy of Life), at the Salon des Indépendants. (Paul Signac, vice president of the Indépendants, joined in the criticism and resented Matisse”s rejection of Post-Impressionism, made clear by the painting. Leo Stein, however, felt it was “the most important painting of our time” and acquired it for the salon he ran with his sister Gertrude.
In the same year Matisse met Pablo Picasso; their first meeting took place in the Steins” salon, where Matisse had been a regular visitor for a year. From that time on, he and Picasso were linked by a friendship based on creative rivalry and mutual respect. Gertrude Stein”s American friends from Baltimore, Clarabel and Etta Cone, also became patrons and collectors of Matisse and Picasso. At the present time, the Cone Collection is on display at the Baltimore Museum of Art.
Trip to Algeria (1906)
In May 1906 Matisse traveled to Algeria and visited the oasis of Biskra. He did not paint during the trip; only after his return did he create the painting Blue Nude (Remembrance of Biskra) and, after completing the painting, a sculpture Reclining Nude I (Aurora), which features a similar posture. From the two-week trip he brought back utilitarian objects such as ceramics and fabrics, which he often used as motifs for his paintings. Matisse took from Oriental ceramics the pure color applied in planes, the reduction of drawing to an arabesque-like line, and the planar arrangement of pictorial space. Oriental carpets appeared in his paintings as in no other modernist painter. An example is the still life Oriental Carpets, which he painted after his return.
The Académie Matisse (1908-1911)
At the instigation and with the support of his admirers, Michael, Sarah, Gertrude and Leo Stein as well as Hans Purrmann, Marg and Oskar Moll and others, he founded a private painting school, which was given his name: “Académie Matisse”. He taught there from January 1908 to 1911 and eventually had 100 students from Germany and abroad. Purrmann was responsible for organization and administration.
Initially, classes were held in the rooms of the Couvent des Oiseaux on Rue de Sèvres. Matisse had already rented another studio room in this vacant convent since 1905, in addition to his original studio on Quai St.-Michel. After it was decided to found the private academy, Stein rented another room in the Couvent for classes. However, the convent complex had to be vacated after only a few weeks. The school therefore moved to the Couvent de Sacré-Cœur on the Boulevard des Invalides at the corner of Rue de Babylon.
Its non-commercial character set the Académie Matisse apart from comparable master studios. Matisse attached great importance to a basic classical education for the young artists. Once a week, a visit to a museum was part of the curriculum. Working from a model came only after the effort of copying. For the time, the proportion of women among the students was surprisingly high. Among the 18 German students, for example Friedrich Ahlers-Hestermann, Franz Nölken and Walter Alfred Rosam, there were eight female artists, including Mathilde Vollmoeller and Gretchen Wohlwill. The Russian-born Olga Markowa Meerson, formerly a fellow student of Wassily Kandinsky in Munich, was also one of his pupils.
Matisse made his first trip to Germany with Hans Purrmann in 1908. There he became acquainted with the Brücke artists” group. He was invited to join the group as the “Übervater of their rebellion” – to no avail. That same year, his first American exhibition took place at Alfred Stieglitz”s Gallery 291. His art theory paper Notes d”un Peintre (Notes of a Painter) appeared in the Grande Revue on December 25, 1908.
Move to Issy-les-Moulineaux (1909)
Russian patron Sergei Shchukin had become aware of Matisse”s work and commissioned two large paintings from him: The Dance and The Music. The crisis years were over, and the financially consolidated position enabled Matisse to leave the Quai Saint-Michel residence in Paris in 1909 and move to Issy-les-Moulineaux, where he bought a house and had his studio built on the property. For a long time, family members modeled for him free of charge and accommodated his wishes with understanding. They were guided by the artist”s needs; for example, the children had to remain silent during meals so as not to disturb their father”s concentration.
After participating in the exhibition Manet and the Post-Impressionists in London, put together by Roger Fry in 1910, Matisse”s sculptures were first exhibited in Alfred Stieglitz”s Gallery 291 in New York in 1912.A year later, in 1913, some of his paintings took part in the important exhibition Armory Show, New York, which, however, drew caustic criticism from the conservative American public. The Armory Show”s treasurer, Walter Pach, represented Matisse”s work in the United States from 1914 to 1926.
Around 1912, some of Matisse”s compositions were considered paracubist by many critics. Matisse and Picasso exchanged ideas frequently during those years. Matisse expressed, “We gave each other a lot in these encounters.” In those conversations, Picasso played the advocatus diaboli, constantly wanting to question something about Matisse”s painting that was in fact very much on his own mind.
In addition to his stays in Seville (19101911) and Tangier (19111912 and 19121913), and a trip to Moscow (1911), Matisse stayed in Berlin in the summer of 1914.
War years (1914-1918)
At the beginning of the First World War in August 1914, Matisse was in Paris. He enlisted for military service, but his request was denied. After the family homestead was destroyed in a German attack, Matisse received no more news from his mother or from his brother, who, like the other men in the village, had been taken as a prisoner of war by German military forces. Just before the Battle of the Marne, he left Paris and went with Marquet to Collioure. The horrors of that time brought Fauvists and Cubists, previously divided by artistic conflicts, closer together again, so Juan Gris stayed with the teacher of Matisse”s children. The latter”s Cubist influence reinforced Matisse”s tendency toward geometric simplification. The sons Jean and Pierre had to do military service from the summer of 1917.
In Nice (1916-1954)
Matisse stayed in Menton on the Côte d”Azur in 1916 on medical advice, as he was suffering from bronchitis, and rented a room in Nice in the Hôtel Beau-Rivage in 19161917. This city was to become his domicile for the next few years. After living in the Hôtel Méditerranée in the meantime, he moved into a two-story apartment on Place Charles-Félix in Nice in the 1920s. He regularly returned to Issy-les-Moulineaux between May and September to work in his studio.
In 1918 the exhibition Matisse – Picasso took place in the Guillaume Gallery, which was to some extent a proof of the leading role of these painters in contemporary art. Matisse showed some of his paintings to Renoir, whom he often visited during this period; he also socialized with Bonnard in Antibes.
In 1920, Djagilev”s ballet Le Chant du Rossignol premiered in Paris, for which Matisse had designed the costumes and set. He again devoted himself to working on sculptures, which he had neglected in previous years. In 1927 his son Pierre Matisse, who had become a gallery owner, organized an exhibition for him at his New York gallery; in the same year he received the prize for painting from the Carnegie International Exhibition in Pittsburgh.
For relaxation Matisse undertook many trips, for example in 1921 to Étretat, in 1925 to Italy and in 1930 via New York and San Francisco to Tahiti.
On his return trip in September 1930, he visited his important collector Albert C. Barnes in Merion (USA), who asked him for a mural with the theme of dance for his private museum. Works by Georges Seurat, Cézanne, Auguste Renoir already filled the walls there. Matisse accepted the challenge and was able to complete the work in 1932. In 1933 his grandson Paul Matisse was born in New York.
For the daunting task of Barnes” mural, Matisse had hired 22-year-old Russian émigré Lydia Delectorskaya (1910-1998) as an assistant, who also sat for him as a model. He was then faced with the alternative by his wife Amélie: “Me or her.” Lydia Delectorskaya was dismissed, nevertheless Amélie demanded a divorce and left him after 31 years of marriage. Matisse became very ill and rehired Delectorskaya. After a stay in Paris at the outbreak of World War II, he returned to Nice.
In the following years he created projects for tapestries and book illustrations. He etched scenes from The Odyssey as illustrations for James Joyce”s Ulysses. In November 1931, the Museum of Modern Art gave Matisse the opportunity for his first major American solo exhibition in New York. Preceded by a major exhibition at the Thannhauser Gallery in Berlin in late summer 1930, the years 1930 to 1931 thus brought many of Matisse”s personal plans to maturity and solidified his already growing international reputation. October saw the publication of the first book illustrated by Matisse, the Skira edition of Poésie de Stéphane Mallarmé.
In 1937 Matisse was asked by Léonide Massine to design decorations and costumes for Rouge et noir, a ballet with music by Shostakovich and choreography by Massine. A year later, he moved to Cimiez to the former Hotel Régina, overlooking Nice.
In 1941 Matisse had to undergo a serious intestinal operation in Lyon. He stayed in the hospital for almost three months, then in a hotel for two months with influenza. He suffered from duodenal cancer and two subsequent pulmonary embolisms.
In May he returned to Cimiez. The operation and the subsequent illness seriously affected him, so that he could only keep himself upright for a limited time. During his convalescence, he began to work again, painting and drawing in bed, including the illustrations for the Fabiani edition of Henry de Montherlant”s Pasiphaé and the Skira edition of Florilège des amours de Ronsard.
In his studio at the foot of the Montagne du Baou in the Villa Le Rêve, two kilometers from the main square of the Provençal village of Vence after an air raid on Cimiez in 1943, Matisse began working on his cut and paste compositions for his book Jazz. In 1944, his divorced wife was arrested and daughter Marguerite was deported for involvement in the Resistance and sentenced to six months in prison. Le Rêve remained his residence until 1948, when he returned to Nice to the Hotel Régina.
In the early summer of 1945 Matisse traveled to Paris, where 37 works were shown in a retrospective at the Salon d”Automne. That same year he exhibited with Picasso at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. In 1946 Matisse received his first visit from Picasso and his partner Françoise Gilot in Vence; the two artists met several more times until 1954.
In 1947 Matisse was elevated to the rank of Commander of the Legion of Honor. That same year, he began sketches for a chapel of the Dominican Sisters, the Chapel of the Rosary in Vence, which would occupy him almost exclusively for the next several years. The project was the result of a close friendship between Matisse and Sister Jacques-Marie, alias Monique Bourgeois. He had hired her in 1941 as a nurse and model; in 1946 she entered a Dominican convent in Vence and was given the name Jacques-Marie. When they met there again, she asked his advice for the construction of a chapel for the convent. In December 1949, the foundation stone for the chapel was laid, and on June 25, 1951, it was inaugurated by the Bishop of Nice. In the same year Matisse received the first prize for painting at the Venice Biennale.
In connection with his works exhibited in the USA in 1951, the American art historian Alfred H. Barr published Matisse: his Art and his Public, which remains an important book on the artist to this day. In 1952, the Musée Henri Matisse opened its doors in his hometown of Le Cateau-Cambrésis. A year later, exhibitions of the papiers découpés followed in Paris and of his sculptures in London. In 1954, he was elected as an honorary member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Matisse worked in the last days of his life on the Rockefeller Rose, which would become his final work, a stained glass window for the Union Church of Pocantico Hills, commissioned by the Nelson Rockefeller family in memory of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller. In addition to Matisse”s work, the church also contains windows by Marc Chagall.
Matisse died of a heart attack in Nice on November 3, 1954. His grave – the memorial stone is dedicated to him and his former wife – is located on the highest point of the cemetery of Cimiez; it is a gift from the city of Nice.
On January 5, 1963, another museum, the Musée Matisse, was founded in Nice. The artist himself donated the painting Still Life with Pomegranate (1947), four drawings from 194142, the silhouette The Creole Dancer (1950), and the two silk prints, Oceania – The Sea and Oceania – The Sky, both from 1947, even before the founding on October 21, 1953. Further donations from the heirs followed between the years 1960 and 1978.
Matisse”s conception of the image
In Matisse”s pictorial world, color takes on an autonomous character through its two-dimensional, decorative and ornamental use, omitting its spatial design aspects. Here, color is neither subordinated to local color nor to the description of surface structures. Rather, Matisse uses it as a means of reproducing the color sensations triggered in the painter by the impression of the motif. On his way through Fauvism, he created a pictorial world in which no more importance is attached to the object than to the interior space, that is, the space between the objects. None of these forms is superior or subordinate to another in the realization of ”expression” (”expression and statement”) as a design element. According to this view, the ”expression” can only be realized through the arrangement and the connection of the color forms – color and form are one – among each other. Through this view, the observation of nature (object) is not only the cause of colorful sensations (subject), but in their mutual interaction is also elevated to a corrective within the creative process. In this sense Matisse saw himself connected to tradition. Thus Matisse – like Picasso – never took the step towards complete abstraction, since in this way, as he emphasized, abstraction was only imitated.
Another characteristic of Matisse”s pictorial composition is that he linearizes the objects. The spatial relationships between the objects recede into the background, are dissolved, but without completely negating their spatial references. Thus, he emphasized that through the equality of forms – object and interior space – as well as through the autonomy of color, a linearization of the pictorial elements was necessary and vice versa.
The need for originality and individuality, which was emerging more and more strongly in those days, on the one hand, and the aversion to what their opponents saw as the “degenerate” views of the still-established academies, on the other, led many painters to want to take their own position. Thus, although Matisse found in Cézanne the figure of the spiritus rector, he did not intend to continue Cézanne”s work.
The early work until 1900
Matisse decided late in life to pursue an artistic career. He began taking art lessons as a 20-year-old paralegal in St.-Quentin. His first paintings corresponded to the bourgeois naturalism that the French school had adopted from the Dutch. A well-known painting from this period is The Reader from 1894, now in the Musée National d”Art Moderne in Paris. In his pictorial themes, women will dominate his art from his early work to his late work in the 1950s, depicted in Matisse”s various phases. Still Life with Self-Portrait in similar brown-green colors followed in 1895, bearing an aesthetic resemblance to Cézanne”s Still Life twenty years his senior, without its sophistication. Well-known paintings from 1897 include The Table Set and the seascape, Belle Île; in the latter there are approximations of Claude Monet”s 1896 Storm in Belle Île, which reflects the Impressionist influences of Monet and John Peter Russell in Brittany.
The main work of the artist can be divided into the following five periods:
Fauve period (1900-1908)
In 1900 Matisse began to paint in a manner that in retrospect has been called “proto-Fauve.” He did not want to see his forms dissolved in light, but rather conceived as a complete whole, and so he moved away from “orthodox” Impressionism. It was Seurat”s Divisionist works, along with those of Paul Cézanne, to which he devoted his attention. Georges Seurat and the Neo-Impressionists created their works according to the theoretical doctrine based on Eugène Chevreul”s color theory. In addition to Seurat, it was Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin who heightened Matisse”s sense of color; he wanted to overcome the imitation of nature. Matisse”s figure composition Luxury, Silence and Desire (190405), for example, was created according to Divisionist rules. A little later, he realized that the Divisionist conception of the picture was not suitable for giving the pictorial works solidity and reflecting the painter”s color sensations, so he turned away from the Impressionist direction, as Cézanne had done years before him.
The result of his work during his Fauvist phase represented a solution in the form of a flat color scheme that countered the “deliquescence” of Impressionist paintings. Examples include Open Window in Collioure and Woman with Hat, both from 1905, which provoked outrage at the Salon exhibition and thus led to the term “Fauvism.” In his painting The Green Stripe. Portrait of Madame Matisse, also from 1905, green forms a permanent feature. The stripe above the face, which at first glance seems unnatural, is not placed arbitrarily, but serves as a boundary between the light and shadow zones. Matisse showed that the autonomy of the color in conjunction with its two-dimensional application meant that the objects had to be linearized among themselves, their spatial relationships thus receding into the background. The works of the following years primarily represent variations on this fundamental insight.
According to his own statement, his life”s work began with the painting The Joy of Living, which he exhibited in 1906 at the Salon des Indépendants, where it drew fierce criticism. After the 1906 trip to Algeria, he created Blue Nude (Memory of Biskra), the palm trees in the background reflecting the trip. The female nude weighs heavily on the ground and casts a shadow. The dominant figure and the flat surroundings reflect Matisse”s view: “It is precisely the figure and not the still life or the landscape that interests me most. In her I can best express, one might say, the religious feeling toward life that is always mine.”
Experimental period (1908-1917)
Matisse”s experimental period, during which he was very productive, is divided into two phases: From 1908 to 1910, organic fluid and arabesque forms predominate, while the second phase from 1911 to 1917, marked by Matisse”s involvement with Cubism, is dominated by geometric forms. Matisse never subordinated his painting to a uniform style, but he frequently changed positions, from decorative to more realistic periods.
In 1909, Russian art patron Sergei Ivanovich Shchukin commissioned two large works, La Danse (The Dance) and La Musique (The Music), to decorate the staircase of his Moscow residence. Two versions of the dance were created in different shades of color. Matisse was inspired by the Provençal round dance Farandole. The paintings, each consisting of five bodies against a strongly colored background, convey joie de vivre; the decorative style combines with the human figure. Their monumentality follows from the simplification of the painterly means: few colors are applied in large homogeneous areas, the drawing becomes a pure line that forms the shapes. Dance is among Matisse”s most famous works. Simplification of forms also determines the painting Bouquet of Flowers and Ceramic Plate (1911). Henri Matisse summarized his impressions of Russian icons as well as objects made of enamel in an interview for the newspaper Utro Rossii (Утро России) on October 27, 1911, during his stay in Moscow:
During World War I, his color scale became darker; the reduction to geometric forms in the style of Cubism reached its peak in 1914 with the painting View of Notre Dame and continued until 1918. The color black played a major role during the war years, an example being the door window in Collioure, 1914.
Nice period (1917-1929)
Matisse devoted himself, among other things, to painting odalisques in various positions. Portraits, light-filled interiors, still lifes, landscapes were also at the center of his representational interest. His works had more naturalistic features than ever before. By making his imaginative imagination real, Matisse thus proved his belief in painting as a “source of unalloyed joy.”
The love of color and detail is evident in the often unusual “ornamental background”. The painting Decorative Figure in Front of an Ornamental Background (192526) particularly features the emblematic attributes of his painting: a woman, flowers and colorful fabrics in the background. It is one of the most important works of the “Nice period”. His model at this time was Henriette Darricarrère. In Nice he decorated his studio with fabric panels, carpets and curtains. The fabric covered with flowers appears in other works, such as Two Odalisques (192728) and Odalisque with Armchair (1928).
Period of renewed simplicity (1929-1940)
The Nice period was followed by a period of renewed simplicity. Matisse”s artistic aspirations focused on the harmony between the maximum development of color and a progressive abstraction of representational form.
In 1929 he traveled to the U.S. and was a jury member of the 29th Carnegie International. A year later he traveled to Tahiti, New York and Baltimore, Maryland as well as Merion, Pennsylvania. Albert C. Barnes of Merion, a major modern art collector who already owned the largest Matisse collection in America, commissioned the artist to create a large mural for the art gallery of his home. Matisse chose a dance theme that had already taken hold of him since his Fauvist phase. The mural, The Dance, exists in two versions due to an error in the measurements; it was installed in May 1933 and is currently on display at the Barnes Foundation. In its simplicity, the composition depicts dancing women in exceedingly strong movement against an abstract, almost geometric background. In preparing the mural, Matisse used a new process, assembling the composition from cut-out pieces of colored paper. From 1940 on, silhouettes became Matisse”s preferred means of expression, a technique he retained until the end of his life.
Period of limitation to the essentials (1940-1954)
The reduction of form to abstraction led Matisse to emphasize the dynamic element. Around 1943, due to his serious illness, silhouettes became a main means of expression in the artist”s work; around 1948, Matisse stopped painting altogether. He had assistants paint sheets of paper with monochrome gouache paint, from which he cut out his figures and free forms (gouaches découpées). Matisse called this technique “drawing with scissors.” It offered the possibility of combining line and color, and was therefore the solution he had long sought to his problem. In drawing, he could represent an impression in a few outlines, albeit without color. In painting, this spontaneity was missing. When the scissors replace the brush and draw directly into the paint, the opposition of color and line is overcome. The result – the cut – is sharper than the drawn line, so it has a different character. In 1947, a sequence of silhouettes from 1943 to 1944 was published as an artist”s book under the title Jazz, which had been reproduced by stencil printing. The title alludes to the spontaneity and improvisation of the musical style of jazz. On the use of lines Matisse wrote in this book:
In addition, there were designs for tapestries such as Polynesia – The Sky and Polynesia – The Sea, 1946. The decoration of a chapel, the Rosary Chapel, (also called Chapelle Matisse), in Vence, inaugurated in 1951, whose stained glass windows he had also prepared in silhouettes, shows the artist”s first stained glass. Another example is the series Blue Nude from 1952; it is exclusively in blue and white and has a sculptural effect in its abstraction.
After the outbreak of World War II, Matisse”s graphic work took up a larger space, and he designed illustrations for Henry de Montherlant”s Pasiphaé (1944), Pierre Reverdy”s Visages (1946), Mariana Alcaforado”s Lettres portugaises (1946), Charles Baudelaire”s Les Fleurs du Mal (1947), Pierre de Ronsard”s Florilège des Amours (1948), and Charles d”Orléans” Poèmes (in contrast, he added color illustrations to his well-known 1947 artist”s book Jazz, in which he wrote down his reflections on art and life.
More than half of Matisse”s sculptures were created in the years between 1900 and 1910, and he often worked in series, simplifying the form over a period of years. The first three-dimensional work of 82, Jaguar Devouring a Hare, was created during his sculptural studies beginning in 1899 and points not only to the influence of Auguste Rodin but also to Antoine-Louis Barye, a well-known French sculptor known for his animal sculptures. Matisse modeled the Jaguar sculpture after his bronze sculpture Jaguar dévorant un lièvre, which he worked on from 1899 to 1901. Like the painting of the same name, the sculpture The Servant was created in 1900 and finished in 1903. The Italian Bevilaqua, who had already modeled for Rodin in his work John the Baptist (1878) and Walking Man (1900), served as his model. Matisse often transposed motifs of his sculptures into paintings or vice versa. The size of his sculptures did not correspond to life size, as was the case with traditional sculptors, but they were created in a smaller format.
In 1907 he began work on the Reclining Nude, which he had further developed from the painting Luxury, Silence and Desire (1904-1905). The subject was to occupy him for 30 years. The sculpture Two Negresses from 1908 can be found again in his 1910 Still Life, Bronze with Fruit. Cézanne”s painting, The Three Bathers, acquired in 1899, served as a model for Matisse in works that depict the body monumentally, such as the series of reliefs of the supine nudes that Matisse created between 1909 and 1929. The inspiration for the series Jeannette I – V from 1910 to 1913 was an earlier Impressionist painting; the head of Jeanette became more and more alienated in the versions. Jeanette V forms a precursor to the physical abstraction that later spread in art from the 1930s. The inspiration from primitive art was not reflected in his paintings, as it was with Picasso, but his transformations in this respect remained limited to the sculptural work.
Almost all of his sculptures consisted of an edition of ten copies, with one exception: The Small Thin Torso from 1929 exists only in three copies. Matisse used the sand and lost wax processes as casting techniques. Most of his sculptural works were cast in later years, when a larger number of collectors became interested in them. The Back Nudes I – IV, which are among Matisse”s most important sculptures, were not cast until after Matisse”s death at the behest of his heirs. In the 1990s, the heirs had most of the original molds destroyed to prevent further editions.
In Notes of a Painter, Matisse clarified the main concerns of his art: “expression” (“expression and statement”), mental processing of natural forms, clarity and color. Furthermore, in this article he confesses his belief in art as an expression of personality. For him, it is neither a representation of an “imagination” nor a mediator of literary ideas, but he bases it on the intuitive synthesis of natural impressions. In this writing a central, often quoted passage reads:
The second theoretical text Notes d”un peintre sur son dessin (Notes of a painter on drawing) appeared in Le Point in 1939. In the years after 1930, he created many line drawings, executed in pencil or pen; the pen and ink drawings were made, as Matisse defined, “only after hundreds of drawings, after trials, realizations, and definitions of form; then I drew them with my eyes closed.”
Testimonials from contemporaries
The impressionist Auguste Renoir, who was many years older, made a comment to Henri Matisse towards the end of the First World War when Matisse visited him in the south of France:
In 1905, fellow painter Paul Signac, who was six years his senior, bought the painting Luxury, Silence and Voluptuousness, exhibited by Matisse at the Salon des Indépendants. A year later, the Neo-Impressionist mocked Matisse”s work The Joy of Living exhibited at the Salon:
Gertrude Stein, Matisse”s patron, described his 1907 painting Blue Nude (Remembrance of Biskra) and its intention as follows:
Matisse”s student and friend, the German painter Hans Purrmann, organized an exhibition in Berlin in 1908 at Paul Cassirer”s gallery. The exhibition met with criticism. At a joint meeting with Max Liebermann at the gallery, the latter feared “the ruin of youth” at the sight of the paintings and preferred to occupy himself with his dachshund. “Gingerbread painting” and “wallpaper” were the catchwords of the time about Matisse”s painting. A few years before Matisse”s death, Purrmann commented on his late life circumstances:
Picasso very often expressed his appreciation of Matisse. Among Picasso”s many expressions, however, the one below most clearly indicates how much Picasso recognized Matisse”s work:
Picasso, who also sometimes launched cruel insults, never allowed anyone else to criticize Matisse. There is much evidence of this, and one of the best among the many testimonies comes from Christian Zervos. Matisse and Picasso spent an afternoon at the Coupole with several others. Matisse left for a moment. When someone asked where he had gone, Picasso replied that he was sitting safely on his laurel wreath. Most of those present, seeking approval from Picasso, began to lash out at Matisse. Picasso then became enraged and shouted, “I will not tolerate you saying anything against Matisse, he is our greatest painter.”
In this way, the two paid tribute to each other. Picasso expressed, “Basically, there is nothing but Matisse.” “Only Picasso can get away with anything. He can confuse everything. Disfigure, mutilate, dismember. He is always, he always remains in the right,” Matisse said. “For this reason alone, for example, Matisse is Matisse: because he has the sun in his body,” said Picasso.
The respectful artistic relationship between these two standard-setting artists of the 20th century, marked by a creative rivalry, is highlighted in detail by Françoise Gilot in her book Matisse and Picasso – An Artist Friendship.
Matisse”s resistance to abstract painting
With unflagging vehemence, Matisse condemned abstract painting in a conversation with Marie Raymond in 1953. “Terms like non-representational or abstract are nothing more than a shield to hide a deficiency.” And adds, “Just write it the same way I tell you: Matisse is against abstract art. Picasso thinks exactly like me: all those who have created a work think like me.”
When asked by Marie Raymond if his late work did not show a certain approach to the experiments of the abstracts, Matisse replied that art had always been abstract and that if he were younger he would start a campaign against abstract art.
Elsewhere, in justifying his rejection of abstract painting, he emphasized that it only imitated abstraction.
After Mark Rothko, a representative of Abstract Expressionism, saw Matisse”s Red Studio (Das rote Atelier, 1911) at New York”s Museum of Modern Art in the late 1940s, he was greatly impressed by the French artist”s work, and it significantly influenced his own. As Rothko once recounted, he spent “hours and hours” sitting in front of the painting. In 1954, the year of Matisse”s death, Rothko painted Homage to Matisse; this work fetched over $22 million at auction in November 2005.
Furthermore, films were made that are available as video films and were broadcast by various television stations: Gero von Boehm filmed Henri Matisse – the years in Nice, TV recording: ARD, October 4, 1988. Matisse – Picasso, an unlikely friendship by Philippe Kohly from 2002 is a French film report, TV recording: 3sat, July 20, 2003. Henri Matisse – eine filmische Reise, (OT: Henri Matisse – un voyage en peinture), a film portrait, was edited by Heinz Peter Schwerfel, GermanyFrance 2005, television recording: Arte, December 10, 2005.
Paintings and silhouettes, graphic work
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