Examining The Work Of Henri Matisse Art Essay


The world is a mural on which we all paint. A revolutionary paints this world with wide strokes and paying no attention to those who try to restrict him. Using different colours, different styles, but still respecting the past behind them, a revolutionary makes an impact on the overall picture. Henri Matisse not only literally painted, but splashed water colour all over the art world. Matisse was a revolutionary with bright new ideas, inventions, and comprehension for the past. As a revolutionary, his ideas still flow through art. His beginning with colour made a path for all to come.

Henri Matisse introduced his new ideas to the art world at the turn of the century. At the time art was slowly becoming Modern. The new age of modernism, was based on the simple view of objects, letting them become the art; rather than the artist making art out of them. Painters began to look at the objects in different ways and paint in different styles. Matisse became a forerunner in revolutionizing modern art. Matisse led a group of artists including Manguin, Braque, and Derain, all having similar views on art. ("Henri Matisse" 337) This new group introduced Fauvism into the art world. Fauvism was one of the first modern movements. The Fauvist group started to view objects as shapes and dissolving the boundaries lines created (Arnason, "Fauvism"). From 1905 to 1910, Fauvism took the art world by storm. A fauvist looked at objects with brilliant colour, using common manufactured paint. (Matisse, Portrait of Madame Matisse) This was shocking to the public's view of art, which was the idea that a great painting took years to produce and many details. This movement had been completely pushed by Henri Matisse's new concepts of colour, the idea of colour being organic, solid, and brilliant. (Greenberg) He once said "When I put a green, it is not grass. When I put a blue, it is not the sky." Meaning that colour could be anywhere, not just the places where it is most present. (Spurling 102) In 1908 Matisse started an art school in Paris. (Spurling 98) There he taught his students to draw with innocence, referring to how children first learn to draw. Drawing with innocence meant drawing what you saw the first time you look at something. This was revolutionary to the world because Matisse had found a way to communicate art in the purest of ways.

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Even with all these new ideas flowing from his hand onto his paintings, Matisee never doubted tradition. Clement Greenberg wrote in his essay on Matisse,

"The superior artist is the one and knows how to be influenced. Matisse certainly knew how, especially when, as in the 1920's, he reached back into the past, to Chardin, Manet, and Cezanne."

Matisse used the masters before him to influnce his art. He took styles from the past and redefined them in the context of his own world. In Cezanne's Les joueurs de carte, the colour is in fragments all over the picture, The objects remain organic and the overall theme isn't clouded. This picture is influential in Matisse's work, example "The Window. The use of colour, theme, and shape are all entwined with each other in both paintings. A succesful revolutionary refines what has passed and uses it to his own advantage. Matisse uses legends to push his ideas to the front. His traditional twists and new ideas were not his only ways to change the art world, his certain sense of appliqué was just as influential.

Matisse's constant style of applying paint was highly influential on art. What was novel was his sense of touch. That touch, Matisse's way of putting paint to canvas, revolutionized art. His brush laid on and stroked the varying thinness of paint so that the white ground breathed as well as showed through. But even when he laid his paint on evenly or more densely, or when he used a palette knife the paint surface would still manage to breathe. (Greenberg) The paint surface, even when the picture as a whole failed, would maintain its liveness. That touch was a great step forward in art and not only for Matisse himself, but for other, younger painters, particularly American ones. He opened up the paintings to a modern and refreshing view

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Matisse's ideas grew into the simplicity and detachment that aids modern art today. Two of Matisse's is strongest paintings have the respective subjects: a window, table, two chairs and a bowl of flowers (Matisse, The Window); a marble-topped table in the open with a few small objects on it (Matisse, The Rose Marble Table). These pictures were painted during the darkest days of the First World War. These paintings supplement the idea of Matisse being a revolutionary because his detachment from society during a time where society was so important. Matisse just painted, ignoring the presence of humans during the war. (Greenberg) Most artists were filled with emotion and expressing it on canvas for the world, while Matisse just shrunk into the seclusion of his mind and painted what he saw. In fact, Matisse always painted what he saw, never what he felt. He detached himself from society as well as his painting subjects. Detachment is what modernism thrives on, because to be simple and a minimalist, you must not over express your emotions. As a forebearer of Modern Art, he set the standards for detachment. Along with his paintings understanding of life philosophically, they understood the most basic shapes with his paper cutouts.

Matisse invented new forms of art. Gouche Decoupee was his most famous invention in visual media (Suiff). Gouche Decuopee is paper cutouts painted with Gouche (opaque watercolour). His HYPERLINK "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Nudes" \o "Blue Nudes" Blue Nudes series feature prime examples of this technique he called "painting with scissors"; they demonstrate Matiss's ability to bring colour and geometry to a new medium of simplicity. (Matisse, Blue Nude II). These inventions in expressing ideas in different ways than just painting compliment Matisse's status as a revolutionary, showing that new forms express new ideas.

A revolutionary's ideas on the world will surpass their death. Robert Hughes a well known art critic wrote an article about a show of Matisse's work at a museum post-mortem.

"He was not an abstract artist but a painter of bodies and space. Sixty years has done little to blunt the impact of the flat out chromatic intensity of Henri Matisse's work." (Hughes 171)

This shows that Matisse's works are still being shown today and that his ideas are thriving behind the glass of the various museums they sit in. A critic whom tears apart canvas with his teeth can still relate to Matisse years after he painted. Modern art today is based on the simplicity that Matisse introduced in the early 1900's. You can see this in Marc Chagall's painting, I & The Village. The flat use of colour is reminiscent of Matisse as well as the simplicity of the organic objects within the painting. Everything your eyes touch that is said to be Modern Art is influenced by Matisse, whether the artist knows it or not. Matisse simplified life and defined Modern art within the context of innocence. Matisse sparked ideas of many artists; Picasso was heavily influenced by Matisse's concept of colour and carried it over into his Cubist movement (Hughes 170). Picasso remained emotional through his art, where as Matisse was a stoic. Picasso's pictures tend to close in on themselves, no matter what, Matisse's to open out, no matter what. Matisse's many works of art are still being shown at world class museums, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Henri Matisse brought on Modern art through his ability to move a brush on canvas. The way he dictated his style, revolutionized art forever. His simple objects, brilliant colours, and social detachment were things not seen before in a famous painter. Throughout his life from Fauvism to the wars to his paper collages, he never failed to communicate with his artwork. A dialogue that is still present past his death. A successful revolutionary keeps affecting the world generation after generation. Matisse affects the world as painters see and create everyday, forever going back the conquistador of colour and shape.