Bob Kessel has created an art series based on Henri Matisse. The pictures are available as signed and numbered limited edition fine art prints. Contact Bob Kessel for prices and availability.

influenced by the works of the post-Impressionists Paul Cezanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh and Paul Signac, and also by Japanese art, Matisse made color a crucial element of his paintings. Matisse said, “In modern art, it is indubitably to Cézanne that I owe the most.” By studying Cézanne’s fragmented planes — which stretched the idea of the still life to a forced contemplation of color surfaces themselves — Matisse was able to reconstruct his own philosophy of the still life.

Matisse’s career can be divided into several periods that changed stylistically, but his underlying aim always remained the same: to discover “the essential character of things” and to produce an art “of balance, purity, and serenity,” as he himself put it. The changing studio environments seemed always to have had a significant effect on the style of his work.

In these first years of struggle Matisse set his revolutionary artistic agenda. He disregarded perspective, abolished shadows, repudiating the academic distinction between line and color. He was attempting to overturn a way of seeing evolved and accepted by the Western world for centuries by substituting a conscious subjectivity  in the place of the traditional illusion of objectivity .

When Fauvist works were first exhibited Salon d’Automne in Paris they created a scandal. Eyewitness accounts tell of laughter emanating from room VII where they were displayed. Gertrud Stein, one of Matisse’s most important future supporters, reported that people scratched at the canvases in derision. “A pot of paint has been flung in the face of the public” was the reaction by the critic Camille Mauclair. Louis Vauxcelles described the work with the historic phrase “Donatello au milieu des fauves!” (Donatello among the wild beasts), referring to a Renaissance-type sculpture that shared the room with them. His comment was printed on 17 October 1905 in Gil Blas, a daily newspaper, and passed into popular usage. Derain himself later called the Fauves’ color “sticks of dynamite.” The painting that was singled out for attacks was Matisse’s Woman with a Hat, a portrait of Madame Matisse.

Due to the recurrent incidence of nude women and intensely sensual interpretation many observers have assumed that as a man Matisse must have been a hedonist. On the contrary, historic examination demonstrates that in reality, he was rather a self-abnegating Northerner who lived only to work, and did so in chronic anguish, recurrent panic, and amid periodic breakdowns. While Picasso recompensed himself, as he went along, with gratifications of intellectual and erotic play Matisse did not. In an age of ideologies, Matisse dodged all ideas except perhaps one: that art is life by other means.

Matisse’s uninhibited celebration of women is often believed to have initiated from Cézanne’s painting Three Bathers (1882) (which he had acquired for himself along with a Van Gogh and a Gauguin). However, Matisse depicts women as nurturing, welcoming, and unlike the forbidding, massive clay-like presence of those of Paul Cezanne.

Matisse continued to evolve in unexpected directions even though never became an abstract painter (though some of his most adventurous works, such as the View of Notre Dame of 1914 or the Yellow Curtain of 1916 come close). His motifs were always recognizable, and the tension between the subject and the formal aspects of the painting was a central concept of his artistic ideal.

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