What was the “wildest” artist of the 20th century? To the 150th anniversary of Henri Matisse
Exactly 150 years ago, on the last day of 1869, one of the most extraordinary artists of the twentieth century – Henri Matisse was born. An artist whose painting now seems strange. What can we say about the turn of the XIX-XX centuries, when the young Matisse began his career?
Oddly enough, this outstanding master took up the art of painting late. Until the age of 20, Matisse had never thought of anything like this until he accidentally tried to draw during illness. And I realized that he wants to do just that in life. Henri quits his career as a lawyer and enters the Julian Academy of Art. For several years, he will replace several educational institutions: the School of Decorative Arts, the Academy of Fine Arts, and finally study at the unofficial “academy” of Eugene Carrier. In parallel, he met with representatives of avant-garde trends – Signac (pointillism) and Russell (representative of neo-impressionism and a friend of Van Gogh). It is easy to guess that the painting of Matisse himself was not very generally accepted. His paintings now look … strange, and at the beginning of the 20th century … Let us immediately answer the usual argument of the lovers of such art: they say, “he just did not know how to draw.” He could.
This is not to say that painting was easy for Matisse. Rather, on the contrary, at times he was almost desperate. In addition, he started his career as an artist late in life, most of his fellow students were younger than him and already knew a lot. Nevertheless, he went through a good classical school and was able to draw. So, in 1896, several of Henri’s works were selected in the Paris Salon – the main national exhibition. Moreover, the state buys two of his paintings. Alas, there is a pause in the successes of the novice painter. Almost 15 years … Matisse begins to search for his own artistic style. Let’s go back a little. I must say that the intention of Henry to become an artist did not find the slightest support from his relatives. Father, a grocery merchant, knew for sure: the son should continue the family business! Nevertheless, we give him his due: Matisse Sr. appoints his son a “trial period” and allocates a small amount of monthly maintenance. Alas, the son mostly disappointed his father. He did not understand and did not accept the painting of his son. Worse, most of the visitors to the exhibitions who saw Henry’s paintings were of the same opinion. Matisse’s works have more than once become an outright mockery. And naturally, they were not bought … Probably, Matisse could write differently. No, not “probably.” Over the years, Matisse has repeatedly changed the style of painting in search of “his own”. But only this “own” did not coincide with the expectations of “consumers”. Impressionism, pointillism, post-impressionism – it is logical and more radical, farther from classical salon painting.
Even worse, he is moving away from the modernists of that time. After passing a serious passion for Cezanne (whose work has become a school and base for several generations of modernists) and pointillism, Matisse is increasingly inclined to work, primarily in color. And the colors of Matisse are bright, contrasting, occupying a central place, attract and do not let go of the attention of the viewer. At the same time, Matisse’s painting is becoming more and more planar, and the similarity of the objects depicted with their models becomes very conditional. Especially when people are “objects” …
As the author himself once explained, “if I wanted to get an accurate image, I would call a photographer.” Given that most of Matisse’s models are women … It’s not without reason that one of the journalists asked him: “Do you really like such women?” “Meet me such a woman,” Matisse answered, “I would run without looking back.” But I do not draw women, but paintings.
Traditional painting is primarily a drawing, a line. Color is important, but rather secondary to the pattern. Pointillists or divisionists for the first time, probably, take color as the basis. Their work is a lot of individual small colored dots that form the contours of the picture. These points merge into the image already in the eye, more precisely in the perception of the viewer.
Matisse gets acquainted with one of the leading representatives of this direction – Paul Signac, passes the stage of fascination with pointillism … And he goes further, starting to put paints in large strokes, using bright intense colors, clear large lines, simplified silhouettes. In fact, this is where the avant-garde begins! But Matisse’s style is not just bright colors and contrasts. This would be too primitive and would hardly become such a powerful phenomenon in painting. This is the obligatory unity and balance of the composition, as well as the instantaneous impression – the heritage of impressionism.
Only this impression is not perceived from the outside, but rather from the inside, as in post-impressionism. And color, setting the mood, reflects not so much reality as its own impressions, sensations of the author. Color, not drawing, first comes to the fore.
The search for yourself, your place and your style lasts a long time. It took Matisse even more time to gain recognition. He was 35 when his style of painting gets its name. In 1905, seeing at one of the exhibitions the works of Matisse and his followers, hung in the hall with a classic sculpture.