Henri Matisse

French, 1869-1954

The Moroccans 1915-16

Oil on canvas

Henri Matisse was born in Le Cateau-Cambresis, Nord, France. He went to Paris to study law, working as a court administrator in Le Cateau- Cambresis after gaining his qualification. He first started to paint in 1889. He emerged as a Post-Impressionist, and first achieved prominence as the leader of the French movement Fauvism. Fauvism favored vibrant colors and winding gestural stroke across the canvas. He was a French artist, known for his use of color and his fluid. He was a draughtsman, printmaker, and sculptor but is known as a painter. He was born on December 31, 1869 and died on November 3, 1954. He has helped define the revolutionary developments in the plastic arts in the opening decades of the twentieth century. Matisse was influenced by the works of earlier masters such as Jean-Baptiste- Simeon Chardin, Nicolas Poussin, and Antoine Watteau.

Matisse developed this painting of what he described as “the terrace of the little café of the casbah” in the years following two visits to Morocco, in 1912 and 1913. As he worked on various studies for The Moroccans he eliminated all details that he felt were extraneous to the painting’s overall balance. At the upper left is a balcony with a flowerpot. In the background, there is a mosque with a vase of blue and white flowers standing on the parapet. At the lower left, there are still life of vegetables. Also, to the right is a Moroccan man, who is seen from behind, wearing a round turban. Matisse’s generous application of black paint helps unify the three sections of the painting across its abstract expanse.  Black is the principal agent, at once simplifying dividing, and joining the three zones of the canvas. Like Bathers by a River, The Moroccans was significantly influenced by Picasso’s Cubism, and some compared it to Picasso’s Three Musicians.

Matisse used pure colors and the white of exposed canvas to create a light-filled atmosphere in his Fauve paintings. He used contrasting areas of pure, unmodulated colors instead of using modeling or shading to structure his pictures. Matisse art was important in endorsing the value of decoration in modern art. He is popularly regarded as a painter devoted to pleasure and contentment, but his use of color and pattern is often disorienting and unsettling. His mastery of the expressive language of color and drawing, displayed in a body of work spanning over a half-century won him recognition as a leading figure in modern art.

This painting caught my attention because the black paint helped me realize the three different aspects of the canvas. He used pure black as a color of light and not as a color of darkness.

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One Response to MoMA

  1. JSylvor says:

    Christine, This is a beautiful painting and a great example of Matisse’s work. Since you have borrowed words and ideas that are not your own here, you are required to cite the source or sources you’ve used. Otherwise you are presenting someone else’s work and passing it off as your own — which is plagiarism. Please add citations for any words or ideas that are not your own.

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