10 Lessons I’ve learned from Matisse

Henri Matisse, Paris 1948, Farbfotografie, Chromogener Farbdruck, © Courtesy Sammlung Dr. Marita Ruiter, Galerie Clairefontaine, Luxemburg.

Use color with feeling!

Henri Matisse (1869–1954), was a French draftsman, painter and sculptor who was a titan of Modernist art in the Twentieth Century. He was a pioneering colorist, and the chief rival of Pablo Picasso. His career spanned six decades, and his work continues to generate major museum exhibitions even sixty years after his passing.

Henri Matisse’s name is synonymous with colorist art. His strange use of color, his mounting of colors to their full power, and his use of surprising combinations of colors unlike anyone else before, set him apart. The key to his color use was his disinterest in referencing objects by their identifiable, or common, colors. Figures could be fleshy colored, or bright blue and yellow-green instead. What mattered was how the colors interacted one to the other, not what signaled to you that here was a human being.

The Modernist era turned art inward; art was to now have a language of self interest, which means that lines, shapes and colors matter at least as much as the objects in a painting. For Matisse they mattered more!

The Renaissance imperative of describing depth of space by graying colors as they recede became unimportant-that was too yesterday! Matisse and his rebel gang of artists were describing the new era without limits, and with the explosive forces of ultramarine, cadmium yellow and vermilion.

Color exists in itself, possessing its own beauty.
Henri Matisse.

Odalisque With A Turkish Chair, 1928
Henri Matisse
Dimensions: 73 x 60 cm
Location: Georges Pompidou Center, Paris, France

After the advent of Modernism, the visual world has been forever changed. Color compositions, known as “color stories,” may now respond to your personal viewpoint. Add new color stories to your art to reinvigorate your paintings!