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Saturday Art: Henri Matisse

Odalisque Seated with Arms Raised, Green Striped Chair

Another August week slowly moves along, yes, there’s a certain charm to the long, hot summer theme.   Meanwhile, we’ll spend time in the cool large rooms of the National Gallery of Art.

Seeming like designs for luxurious decorations, somewhat, Henri Matisse’s sensuous collections of motifs draw us for their color and piquancy.   They are simplistic in sketched out figures, but full of the fascination of exotic details.

Matisse’s career can be divided into several periods that changed stylistically, but his underlying aim always remained the same: to discover “the essential character of things” and to produce an art “of balance, purity, and serenity,” as he himself put it. The changing studio environments seemed always to have had a significant effect on the style of his work.

In these first years of struggle Matisse set his revolutionary artistic agenda. He disregarded perspective, abolished shadows, repudiating the academic distinction between line and color. He was attempting to overturn a way of seeing evolved and accepted by the Western world for centuries by substituting a conscious subjectivity  in the place of the traditional illusion of objectivity .

Matisse hit his stride in the avant-garde art world in the first years of the new decade.


By 1905, Matisse was considered spearhead the Fauve movement in France, characterized by its spontaneity and roughness of execution as well as use of raw color straight from the palette to the canvas. Matisse combined pointillist color and Cézanne’s way of structuring pictorial space stroke by stroke to develop Fauvism – a way less of seeing the world than of feeling it with one’s eyes.

Matisse was a descendant of weavers, so came into his love for fabric and design naturally.    He studied law and became a member of a law office when a bout of illness brought his mother to gift him with a set of paints.

After that, he knew what he was, and struggled to become the rest of his ideals in a slog through one combat with the l’Ecole demands after another.   Like the other impressionist standard bearers, he had many barriers to break through.   He managed to become magnificent, maintaining his course that kept to a concept that was individualistic while always true to his skills in execution.

His health failing, Matisse lost the ability to paint but continued to compose art work with cut outs.   The last works of his career, these delicate designs are seen for limited hours, in rooms that keep them from deteriorating by exposure to light.

by Matisse

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Ruth Calvo

Ruth Calvo

I've blogged at The Seminal for about two years, was at cabdrollery for around three. I live in N.TX., worked for Sen.Yarborough of TX after graduation from Wellesley, went on to receive award in playwriting, served on MD Arts Council after award, then managed a few campaigns in MD and served as assistant to a member of the MD House for several years, have worked in legal offices and written for magazines, now am retired but addicted to politics, and join gladly in promoting liberals and liberal policies.