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Saturday, February 14, 2015

Matisse, Henri


The Conversation
1912
oil on canvas
177 × 217 cm
Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia

This painting portrays Matisse and his wife, facing each other in a blue room. He eloquently displayed himself and his wife while having a conversation of sorts. In the painting, Matisse wears the fashionable pajamas, which were introduced from India, where they were the traditional garb of tea-planters. Matisse found them so comfortable that he would paint in them, making them his working clothes. The Conversation is a masterfully crafted painting that visually shows the dynamic between a man and a woman. The vibrant colors, the intricate brush strokes and interesting details set the stage for a classic painting by Henri Matisse. Matisse painted The Conversation at a time when he abandoned the open, spontaneous brushwork of his Fauve period in favor of a flatter and more decorative style.

"It is only by drawing often, drawing everything, drawing incessantly, that one fine day you discover to your surprise that you have rendered something in its true character." (Matisse)

Henri-Emile-Benoit Matisse (1869-1954) was a French artist, known for his use of color and his fluid and original draughtsmanship. The art of 20th 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 labeled 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 Venice, France.
Picasso destroyed his fear of women in his art, while Matisse coaxed his nervous tension into serenity. Matisse said that he wanted his art to have the same effect as a comfortable armchair on a tired businessman and many of the paintings he left us seem to be the view from that armchair.
"Instinct must be thwarted just as one prunes the branches of a tree so that it will grow better."(Matisse)