Sunday, 26 September 2010


“An artist must possess Nature. He must identify himself with her rhythm, by efforts that will prepare the mastery which will later enable him to express himself in his own language.” - Henri Matisse

For Art Sunday today, Henri Matisse. He was born on December 31, 1869 in Le Cateau Cambresis, France. He first got a degree in law but then decided to become an artist. He studied for three years with Gustave Moreau. He learned a lot by copying paintings by other great artists, such as Raphael.

Matisse was one of the founders of a type of art called Fauvism, a style of painting with vivid expressionistic and non-naturalistic use of colour that flourished in Paris from 1905 and, although short-lived, had an important influence on subsequent artists, especially the German expressionists. The term Fauvism is from the French fauve ‘wild beast.’ The name originated from a remark of the French art critic Louis Vauxcelles at the Salon of 1905; coming across a quattrocento-style statue in the midst of works by Matisse and his associates, he is reputed to have said, “Donatello au milieu des fauves!” (‘Donatello among the wild beasts’).

Matisse liked to compose his paintings with people in them as it made it easy for him to express his feelings about life. He especially liked to paint women, because he said they held the answer to the mystery of life. Matisse also did many pieces of art using cut paper. He was also a sculptor and an etcher.

Towards the end of his life, Matisse developed cancer and he became confined to a wheelchair. From his wheelchair, he completed one of his most famous works, painting the inside of the Chapelle du Rosaire. Matisse died in 1954.

Illustrated here is his “Le bonheur de vivre” (The Joy of Life) 1905-1906; Oil on canvas (175 x 241 cm). The characteristic swathes of bright non-naturalistic colour evoke strong emotional responses in the viewer, while the subject matter makes it clear as to what the artist believes is essential in life for a joyful existence.


  1. Where is The Joy of Life? I would love to have a good look at what must be a very large painting.

    "An artist must possess Nature. He must identify himself with her rhythm, by efforts that will prepare the mastery which will later enable him to express himself in his own language." The words _possess_ and _mastery_ reflect a gigantic change from the thinking of the Romantics, don't they?

    I wonder if Matisse truly believed that he and other artists would truly be able to express themselves as perfectly as they hoped. After all, there was a great deal of boozing, drugs and bad women going on in art circles.

  2. Hello Hels, the original is in the USA: Barnes Foundation, Merion, PA
    You are right it is very large: 175 x 241 cm

    Finding an original way of expressing oneself is something that an artist will have to resolve in his/her own way sooner rather than later if he/she is to make a mark. It will determine whether that artist will be remembered or forgotten, ultimately. It is that personal language that Matisse was referring to and which makes a particular artist's work immediately recognisable.

  3. I adore the colours of this! The dancing circle is something that Matisse has painted again and again...

  4. Thank you for the reminder about the definition of fauve painting. Or even that this very short movement existed. You remember the Impressionist movement and forget this little side channel that did contribute a lot to later art movements.

    I can certainly see its effects on what is now termed the southwest visionary style.

    I found myself also rather surprised that he died within my lifetime. Guess I am getting old.