Henri Matisse was proclaimed a promoter of Fauvism by creating a whole language through the use of colour with the aim of transcending the obvious and generating emotionality. In spite of a life subject to health problems, he was able to project a mood that remains and imposes itself on oblivion.
He was born in France in 1869. From a family dedicated to commerce, the young Matisse moved to study law, however, after several years practicing law he decided to join the Academie Julian to start studying art with the painter Bouguereau.
In 1893 he entered the School of Fine Arts where he received the technique of Gustave Moreau. The painter’s artistic career was marked by ups and downs and his works evolved from a more conservative technique to that style that so characterises him, due to a particular use of colour. In fact, post-impressionist artists such as Paul Gauguin, Vicent Van Gogh, Paul Signac and Paul Cézanne, influenced that turn of his compositions.
During the time he worked in Carrièrre’s studio he met André Derain and Maurice Vlaminck, with whom he exhibited at the 1905 Autumn Salon. It was the first time that a representation of reality based on the conception of colour beyond a figurative function could be seen. The critic Louis Vauxcelles, who in an article published in the magazine Gil Blas, called the group Fauves (beasts), attended that exhibition and thus a fleeting artistic movement was born that lasted three years.
One of the artist’s best known works, The green stripe or Madame Matisse, was exhibited at that Salon. A half-bust portrait of his wife, Amélie Parayre, with her face slightly turned upside down. He uses a greenish line to mark the symmetry of the face and generate contrast. Colder shades such as pink create shadows while warm colours such as yellow bring light. It gives a very simple, decorative treatment to the shape, using very thick, rhythmic lines that get lost in the disparity of colours. The depth and the volumes are synthesized based on a chromatic game that enhances the emotionality.
A year later, he travelled to Algeria where he explored the art of African sculpture and diluted colours, absorbing the exoticism and atmosphere of the country to reflect it in his works. In 1908 he published Notes from a Painter, which compiles his artistic principles in various disciplines such as ceramics, sculpture, lithography and painting.
An example that reflects very well the intentionality of Matisse’s colour and stylistic features is The Red Room (1908). The colour red impregnates the work with intensity, the depth is at the expense of the play of planes created from primary or complementary colours, the painter is able to create a dreamlike and sinuous atmosphere through forms that are structured by means of rhythmic lines. The expressiveness of the work enhances subjectivity and spirituality.
Between 1909 and 1910 he made another of his most famous compositions La Danza y La Música. In the case of the former, it stands out for its large dimensions and the apparent simplicity of its content. However, he studied each element with the aim of transmitting the musicality and balance that have made him so popular. He bases the colours on three unique tones that manage to generate volume through contrast, he draws silhouettes with a primitive aspect that produce a sensation of continuity through the extension of the arms.
It can be seen in the paintings, as from 1928 he began to simplify the forms to the maximum, he was particularly interested in line and colour without losing the audacity of his essence.
Henri Matisse became paralysed and did not stop exploiting his creativity until he died in 1954 in Nice (France) at the age of 85. Misunderstood and controversial for fleeing from the techniques and artistic trends of the time, he created a whole irrational and passionate universe through experimentation with colour that would end up influencing the following generations of artists.