Sunday, December 16, 2012

Matisse, Henri

Large Reclining Nude (The Pink Nude)
oil on canvas
92.7 x 66.0 cm
The Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD, USA

"Cutting directly into color reminds me of a sculptor's carving into stone." (Matisse)

In the 1930s, Matisse became interested in simplifying, flattening and abstracting forms. He reduced the sense of viewpoint. Images became signs for what they represented. Matisse would begin by painting an image and then eliminate detail to create a smooth, flattened area. New emphasis was placed on bright colors and on the spaces between the represented objects.

Pink Nude is an important work in the transition to Matisse's later painting style and to his use of cut-outs. This work is the first in which the artist used cut paper to change and shape the image. This work began as a natural portrait of a reclining woman surrounded by a chair and a vase of flowers. Gradually, Matisse changed the structure of the image by flattening and abstracting the forms and creating a geometric pattern in the background. The woman's body is presented as a series of curves against the geometric grid; this is meant to suggest the extreme opposition between movement and stillness or passion and reason. In painting the vase the same bright pink as the woman's flesh, Matisse may have been suggesting a connection between the earthy, reproductive nature of woman and the vase which holds the growing flowers. The inverted, abstract chair appears as another symbol of fertility and procreation. This work can be compared to Matisse's Blue Nude as the pink figure's pose is a variation on the earlier work. Pink Nude, however, maintains a more restrained and cooler air than the highly sensual subject of Blue Nude. This new restraint and abstraction marks an important shift in Matisse's work.

Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse (1869 - 1954) was a French artist, known for his use of color and his fluid and original draughtsmanship. The art of 2oth century has been dominated by two men: Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso. They are artists of classical greatness, and their visionary forays into new art have changed our understanding of the world. Matisse was the elder of the two, but he was a slower and more methodical man by temperament. Matisse and Picasso helped to define the revolutionary  developments in the plastic arts in the opening decades of the 20th century, responsible for significant developments in painting and sculpture.

Matisse began studying drawing and painting in the 1890s. A student of the masters of Post-Impressionism, Matisse later made a reputation for himself as the leader of a group of painters known as Les Fauves (wild beasts). An ironic label given to them by a critic, the name reflected Matisse's aggressive strokes and bold use of primary colors.
Although he was labelled a Fauve, by the 1920s he was increasingly hailed as an upholder of the classical tradition in French painting. His mastery of the expressive language of color and drawing, displayed in a body of work spanning over a half-century, won him recognition as a leading figure in modern art.

Matisse loved pattern, and pattern within pattern: not only the suave and decorative forms of his own compositions but also the reproduction of tapestries, embroideries, silks, striped awnings, curlicues, mottles, dots, and spots, the bright clutter of over-furnished rooms, within the painting. In particular he loved Islamic art. Islamic pattern offers the illusion of a completely full world, where everything from far to near is pressed with equal urgency against the eye. Matisse admired that, and wanted to transpose it into terms of pure color. Beyond painting, he worked with lithographs and sculpture, and during World War II he did a series of book designs. Later in his career he experimented with paper cutouts and designed decorations for the Dominican chapel in Vence, France.
Picasso destroyed his fear of women in his art, while Matisse coaxed his nervous tension into serenity. "Instinct must be thwarted just as one prunes the branches of a tree so that it will grow better."(Matisse)