Saturday, February 27, 2010

Matisse: The Master of Color

Without a doubt, Henri Matisse is one of a handful of the real giants of modern art.  He is considered "The Master of Color", but also is a master of shape, line, and composition, leading the way to many movements of art in the 20th century.

During the last years of his life Henri Matisse turned to using scissors, creating large maquettes for a number of works, some for the famous Chapel in Vence, France. These large number of monumental works, which are in such museums as the National Gallery, and the Museum of Modern Art, among others, were made available to a wider audience through the creation of smaller original lithographs.  Matisse’s superb images of shape and color were not published during his lifetime but soon after his death in 1954.  Mourlot, the major printer in Paris of original lithographic works, printed them under Matisse’s close supervision.  Teriade, a close friend, who Matisse worked with for decades, published these original lithographs  in Verve in 1958.  We have many of these for sale in our gallery.

"Draw with the scissors," said Matisse. "The cut is the design, even of the color, the shape that color imposes on itself by its own harmony. The creative movement of the hand operates to cut into what exists rather than to draw in the imaginary."  These works are the culmination of all of the artist's years of working with color and form.  He was able to bring his vision into the refined elements of pure color and shape, with the figurative context remaining as in the exuberant Apollon pictured above.  In addition, the decorative Souvenier d'Ocean below , along with others in this group of work, is as close to abstract design as the artist ever came.
A number of these works are now available at the R.H. Ballard Gallery and represent a compendium of Matisse's last body of work, just as exuberant, if not even more so, than all the work that came before.  

Some years ago in a preface to a showing of Matisse's collages, Teriade wrote: "Pure color, flat color and its corollary, line design, have always directed Matisse's main researches. The miracle is that he has been able to hold passionately to that primary guiding principle, even to the invention of his cut-paper art work of today, a logical conclusion and absolute freeing of the painter.”

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