Henri Matisse is one of my favorite artists. Lawyer turned artist, Matisse is labeled by art historians as the leader of Fauvism, an art movement in Paris at the turn of the 20th century. The name of the movement stems from a critic's response to a 1905 art exhibition that showcased paintings by Matisse and other local artists. A critic called the artists in the show les fauves (the wild beasts in French) after being so appalled by their use of vibrant, contrasting colors and impulsive brushstrokes.
Matisse's Woman in a Hat was one of the paintings in the exhibition that caused quite a stir. Instead of conventional flesh tones to highlight the facial structure of his subject, he used bright and bold colors ranging in blues to yellows to reds. Take a look at the green stripe down the nose to separate the cool shadows of one side of the face from the warm tones of the other- brilliant!
Henri Matisse, Woman with a Hat, oil on canvas, 31.25 in. x 23.5 in., 1905. San Francisco Museum of Art.
Ever since I first studied The Red Studio in an art history course nearly 20 years ago, it has been one of my favorite Matisse paintings. It is a great discussion piece on whether or not Matisse was successful in creating the illusion of perspective. I also love the dynamic red color of the canvas complemented by splashes of pinks (a tint of red) and greens (the opposite of red).
Henri Matisse, The Red Studio, oil on canvas, 1911. MoMA.
As Matisse's health turned for the worse in 1941, he started creating collages out of colored paper. Matisse wrote, "The paper cutouts allow me to draw with color. For me, it is a simplification. Instead of drawing an outline and then filling in with color - with one modifying the other - I draw directly in color... It is not a starting point, it is a completion."
Only a master artist can simplify complex, natural forms in such a minimal and organic style. Just beautiful.