Bright colours, flattened shapes and intricate patterns are all key attributes of Henri Matisse’s paintings. This well-known French visual artist, along with fellow painters like Pablo Picasso, is particularly acclaimed for refining the modern art movement.
Born in Le Cateau-Cambresis in northern France in 1869 yet raised in Picardy, Matisse discovered his love of painting during his young adult years. Throughout his career, he had many, many different influences, from Baroque painters like Nicolas Poussin to modern masters like Edouard Manet. He even sought inspiration from the bold natural colour schemes of North African landscapes and the intricate designs of Japanese arts and crafts.
All of these artistic traditions helped him shape his own unique style of artwork that’s still very much relevant and sought-after today.
While he may now be one of France’s most celebrated painters, art was not Henri Matisse’s original career path. In fact, in 1887 he went to Paris to become a lawyer and then spent several years as a court administrator. It wasn’t until 1889 when his mother bought him some art supplies to keep him busy while he recovered from appendicitis that he discovered his true calling.
At age 20, and much to his father’s disappointment, he left law behind and returned to Paris, this time to study his new craft at the prestigious Académie Julian. This journey of artistic discovery would see him being tutored by many great creatives, practising countless different forms of art, and slowly but surely, building up a reputation as one of the early 20th century’s most influential artists.
Throughout his life, Matisse would not only become an accomplished painter. He would also develop a passion for colour, uncover a talent for sculpture, experiment with line drawing and, ultimately, become one of the founding fathers of Fauvism.
Like all great artists, Henri Matisse’s style and mediums evolved throughout his lifetime. Here we take a look at some of the most well-known tropes of his work and delve into the history of the Fauvist movement.
The unbridled use of bright and beautiful colours is a key feature of Henri Matisse’s works - and there’s one particular event during his early career that we have to thank for this.
In 1896 while still a student of art, Matisse took a trip to Belle-Île in Brittany to visit John Russell. The Australian painter had been a great friend of Vincent Van Gogh and he tutored Matisse in both the works of the Impressionists and in colour theory. After this, Matisse changed his style completely, adopting bolder tones which would later become a key motif of many of his paintings.
Over the next decade, Matisse took trips to London to study the paintings of Joseph Turner. He also worked alongside some of Paris’s major art players of the time, and bought numerous pieces by the likes of Cezanne and Van Gogh. He also experimented with Divisionism: an art form that sees the artist applying detail and form to a painting through individual dots of colour.
Perhaps Matisse’s biggest legacy in the art world is his contributions to the Fauvism movement. The movement only lasted from 1900 to 1905 and among the Fauves (meaning ‘wild beasts’ in French) were Matisse himself and his friend, Andre Derain.
The artistic style echoes the Impressionist era; however, its main characteristics included a strong, almost violent, use of colour that was liberally applied to the canvas. The Open Window, which depicts a scene outside a window in southern France, is a wonderful example of Matisse’s Fauvist work thanks to its bold brushstrokes and vivid hues.
While the movement may have only lasted five years, it gave way to some of Matisse’s most successful years and countless exhibitions. From 1906 onwards, his style evolved to include the flatter forms and pattern-like aesthetics that he is well-remembered for today.
“Drawing is like making an expressive gesture with the advantage of permanence.” – Henri Matisse
By the 1930s, Matisse had adopted a more relaxed style of painting which was forced to become even more relaxed by a bout of ill-health.
It was during this period that he embarked on two new forms of art: cut out collages and ink drawings. His cut out work bridged the gap between painting and sculpture, with the artist using paper pre-painted with gouache to create both small-scale and mural-sized collages.
By contrast, Matisse’s line drawings were simple, striking and unusually devoid of colour. Despite this stark change of direction, his line drawings are now some of his most recognisable works.
The line drawing technique has popped up throughout the history of art and was particularly favoured by Picasso, Kandinsky and Mondrian. Matisse preferred to use it to paint more intimate subjects and topics. This included quick yet emotive illustrations of the female form, in addition to figures from mythology.
No matter which style of Henri Matisse artwork you prefer, why not try incorporating it into your home décor? Let’s take a peek at just a handful of the Matisse paintings and prints available at Art Republic.
Henri Matisse’s cut out creations dominated the latter years of his career. These pochoir reproductions of “Feuille Noire Sur Fond Rouge” and “Feuille Noire Sur Fond Vert” allow you to have two wonderful examples of his simplistic yet effortlessly eye-catching cut out art in your own home.
The small prints may be imitations of Matisse’s original gouache and collage creations, but they still date back to 1953 and were both meticulously hand-coloured by the Ateliers du Coloris Moderna. The designs echo Matisse’s love of decoration and pattern, while the bold colours hark back to his Fauvism days.
Love the idea of hanging Matisse line drawings in your home? This extraordinary limited-edition lithograph forms part of the artist’s Les Miroirs Profonds (meaning ‘The Deep Mirror’) series created in the late 1940s.
The simplicity of the lines and the monochromatic colour palette is balanced out by the detail of the woman’s hair and her defiant expression which appears to almost jump off the paper. It’s a truly timeless piece that can easily be made to match any style of décor.
This bold lithograph forms part of Matisse’s later collections and offers a distinct amalgamation between his later line drawings and his early use of bright colours.
Vigne forms part of a collection called ‘The Last Works’ which was his very last project before his death in 1954. Unable to create art himself due to illness, Matisse instead oversaw the transformation of his cut out creations into a series of 39 extraordinary lithographs.
For even more prints and paintings from one of Modern Art’s most influential artists, take a look at our full Henri Matisse collection. You’ll also discover other artist features and many inspirational articles on how to decorate your home over in our journal.