Henri Emile Benoit Matisse 1869 - 1954
Henri Matisse was a French artist known for the use of vivid colours, this became the fundamental focus of his paintings. Matisse had a broad and diverse practice as printmaker, draughtsman and sculptor alongside his work as a Painter. He is known, along with Pablo Picasso, for revolutionising painting and sculpture at the beginning of the 20th century.
His contemporary work had him labelled as a "Fauve" (wild beast), but by the 1920’s people had realised that the fundamental elements of his work were rooted in the tradition of French 19th Century painting. His mastery in colour and drawing made him a major leading figure in Modern Art.
A group known as “The Fauvists” was headed by Matisse in the early 1900’s. The group's paintings were bright and colourful with no regard to the subject’s natural colour. This colour was "arbitrary", imagined, and designed to create maximum emotive response. This group were Avant Garde in their notions, unpopular with many, and as a result Matisse struggled to provide for his family. Despite this, an undeterred Matisse created some of his finest work during this period, as well as studying many forms of painting around the world. It was at this time that he started using black as a colour in his paintings which created a new boldness in the use of intense colour.
In 1906, Matisse met Picasso, they were to become lifelong friends and professional rivals. Their work is often compared for their use of colour, but the biggest difference is that Matisse often painted from nature and still life, whereas Picasso relied more on his imagination.
During the Second World War, Matisse decided to stay in France, he famously wrote in Pierre in 1940, “It seemed to me as if I would be deserting, if everyone who has any value leaves France, what remains of France?” During this time he was able to continue to exhibit his work.
In 1941, Matisse was diagnosed with abdominal cancer, the operation to remove the tumour left him chair and bed bound. During this time Matisse reverted to a technique he had used in the 1920’s- a form of decoupage. This new way of working allowed him to "draw with scissors", cutting flattened forms and shapes that he used to create compositions of rhythmic colour. He would create large murals with the help of his assistants, cutting up pieces of pre painted paper in various shapes and sizes, then bringing them together to form compositions.
Matisse worked tirelessly right up until his final days, daily instructing his assistants to move these enormous shapes of colour from one place to another until they struck a visual "harmony". Looking at Art, he said, should be like sitting in a comfy old armchair. Comfort, happiness, nostalgia and memory brought to life by colour.
Our next weekend workshop 'Painting Like Matisse' is all about exploring the fascinating techniques of this great painter. The workshop will explore Matisse’s eye for colour, composition, and design. Working from an elaborate studio set up, students will begin by making charcoal studies that look at rhythm, structure and balance. During the course of the day, students will move into working in colour, making bold dynamic paintings that strive to create image harmony as he did.
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