Henri Matisse: Balance of Art

Henri Matisse: sitting in studio

“What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity, devoid of troubling or depressing subject-matter, an art which could be for every mental worker, for the businessman as well as the man of letters, for example, a soothing, calming influence on the mind, something like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.” -Henri Matisse

Synopsis:

“Henri Matisse is widely regarded as the greatest colorist of the twentieth century and as a rival to Pablo Picasso in the importance of his innovations. He emerged as a Post-Impressionist, and first achieved prominence as the leader of the French movement Fauvism. Although interested in Cubism, he rejected it, and instead sought to use color as the foundation for expressive, decorative, and often monumental paintings. As he once controversially wrote, he sought to create an art that would be “a soothing, calming influence on the mind, rather like a good armchair.” Still life and the nude remained favorite subjects throughout his career; North Africa was also an important inspiration, and, towards the end of his life, he made an important contribution to collage with a series of works using cut-out shapes of color. He is also highly regarded as a sculptor.

Key Ideas:

“Matisse used pure colors and the white of exposed canvas to create a light-filled atmosphere in his Fauve paintings. Rather than using modeling or shading to lend volume and structure to his pictures, Matisse used contrasting areas of pure, unmodulated color. These ideas continued to be important to him throughout his career.

“His art was important in endorsing the value of decoration in modern art. However, although he is popularly regarded as a painter devoted to pleasure and contentment, his use of color and pattern is often deliberately disorientating and unsettling.
Matisse was heavily influenced by art from other cultures. Having seen several exhibitions of Asian art, and having traveled to North Africa, he incorporated some of the decorative qualities of Islamic art, the angularity of African sculpture, and the flatness of Japanese prints into his own style.

“Matisse once declared that he wanted his art to be one “of balance, of purity and serenity devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter,” and this aspiration was an important influence on some, such as Clement Greenberg, who looked to art to provide shelter from the disorientation of the modern world.

“The human figure was central to Matisse’s work both in sculpture and painting. Its importance for his Fauvist work reflects his feeling that the subject had been neglected in Impressionism, and it continued to be important to him. At times he fragmented the figure harshly, at other times he treated it almost as a curvilinear, decorative element. Some of his work reflects the mood and personality of his models, but more often he used them merely as vehicles for his own feelings, reducing them to ciphers in his monumental designs.” -TheArtStory.org

MORE DETAILS:

BOOK: Dance Me to the End of Love
by by Leonard Cohen (author) & Henri Matisse (illustrator) 

"Dance Me to the End of Love, a deliriously romantic song by Leonard Cohen that was brilliantly visualized through the sensual paintings of Henri Matisse. Now for its 10-year anniversary, Welcome is thrilled to present the entirely re-imagined and redesigned Dance Me to the End of Love. With the art of Matisse and the words of Cohen still at the heart of the book, the new look and feel of this Art & Poetry book is overwhelmingly beautiful.
Cohen's song is a lyrical tribute to the miracle of love, the grace it bestows on us and its healing, restorative power. Originally recorded on his Various Positions album, and featured in Cohen's anthology, Stranger Music, this poetic song is gloriously married to the art works by Henri Matisse, perhaps the greatest artist of the twentieth century. "I had this dance within me for a long time," Matisse once said in describing one of his murals. Dance Me to the End of Love is the perfect book for art lovers, song lovers, and all other lovers as well."...(more)...
BOOK: Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs 
by Karl Buchberg

"Published in conjunction with the most comprehensive exhibition ever devoted to Henri Matisse's paper cut-outs, made from the early 1940s until the artist's death in 1954, this publication presents approximately 150 works in a groundbreaking reassessment of Matisse's colorful and innovative final chapter. The result of research conducted on two fronts--conservation and curatorial--the catalogue offers a reconsideration of the cut-outs by exploring a host of technical and conceptual issues: the artist's methods and materials and the role and function of the works in his practice; their economy of means and exploitation of decorative strategies; their environmental aspects; and their double lives, first as contingent and mutable in the studio and ultimately made permanent, a transformation accomplished via mounting and framing. Richly illustrated to present the cut-outs in all of their vibrancy and luminosity, the book includes an introduction and a conservation essay that consider the cut-outs from new theoretical and technical perspectives, and five thematic essays, each focusing on a different moment in the development of the cut-out practice, that provide a chronicle of this radical medium's unfolding, and period photographs that show the works in process in Matisse's studio."...(more)...
BOOK:Matisse the Master: A Life of Henri Matisse: The Conquest of Colour
by Hilary Spurling

"“If my story were ever to be written down truthfully from start to finish, it would amaze everyone,” wrote Henri Matisse. It is hard to believe today that Matisse, whose exhibitions draw huge crowds worldwide, was once almost universally reviled and ridiculed. His response was neither to protest nor to retreat; he simply pushed on from one innovation to the next, and left the world to draw its own conclusions. Unfortunately, these were generally false and often damaging. Throughout his life and afterward people fantasized about his models and circulated baseless fabrications about his private life.

Fifty years after his death, Matisse the Master (the second half of the biography that began with the acclaimed The Unknown Matisse) shows us the painter as he saw himself. With unprecedented and unrestricted access to his voluminous family correspondence, and other new material in private archives, Hilary Spurling documents a lifetime of desperation and self-doubt exacerbated by Matisse’s attempts to counteract the violence and disruption of the twentieth century in paintings that now seem effortlessly serene, radiant, and stable."...(more)...
BOOK: Matisse on Art
edited from the writings of Henri Matisse

"The major writings of Henri Matisse (1869-1954), with the exception of the letters, are collected here along with transcriptions of important interviews and broadcasts given at various stages of Matisse's career. Jack Flam provides a biography, a general introduction that addresses the development of Matisse's aesthetic values and theories, and a critical introduction for each text."..(more)..