Dictionary of Art and Artists


that Changed the World


  Lascaux Caves Manesse illuminated Massys Callot Friedrich Picasso
  Tutankhamen's tomb Lorenzetti Grunewald Rembrandt Constable Matisse
  Europa and Minotaur Karlstein Castle Baldung Claude Lorrain Delacroix Marc
  Banquet Tomb Limbourg brothers Altdorfer Velazquez Turner Kandinsky
  Pompeii Van Eyck Cranach Vermeer Ingres Monet
  Birth of Christianity Della Francesca Holbein Rigaud Manet Chirico
  Hagia Sophia Uccello Titian Watteau Burne-Jones Modigliani
  Book of Kells Mantegna Bruegel Canaletto Seurat Chagall
  St Benedict Botticelli Vicentino Boucher Van Gogh Kahlo
  Bayeux Tapestry Anonymous Arcimboldo Fragonard Toulouse-Lautrec Dali
  Donizo manuscript Durer El Greco Gainsborough Munch Ernst
  Liber Scivias Bosch Theodore de Bry John Trumbull Cezanne Hopper
  Carmina Burana Da Vinci Caravaggio David Gauguin Bacon
  Falcon Book Michelangelo Rubens Gros Degas Warhol
  Giotto Raphael Brouwer Goya Klimt  

From Lascaux to Warhol

Supreme art is a traditional statement of certain heroic and religious truth,
passed on from age to age, modified by individual genius,
but never abandoned.

William Butler Yeats




The Calming Effect of Colour

The blue of the Cote d'Azur



What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity devoid of troubling or disturbing subject matter... like a comforting influence, mental relief-something like a good armchair in which one rests from physical fatigue.

Henri Matisse, A Painter's Notes, 1908


Matisse and his model, 1939

The French artist Henri Matisse delighted in painting the blue of his beloved Cote d'Azur, the green umbrella pines and the rows of elegant white villas lining the coast. He revelled in capturing the essence of leisurely life on canvas: men playing boules in the shade of the trees, people relaxing and enjoying quiet, carefree days in the sun, yachts bobbmg on a gentle swellin the harbour accompanied by the balmy breezes of the mistral. Colours, for him, were like the harmony of music. He was convinced that contemplating sunlit colours induced profound inner calm. In Dance he explores the calming effect of colour. This is not the only occasion on which he consciously acted as a painterly pastor, a priest of the easel, who exuded an almost religious feeling for life. In 1908 he expressed the hope that people might find peace and tranquillity in his paintings. He loved life's sensuous pleasures, the beauty of the models who sat for him and the lushness of nature. Painting was his way of sharing his own zest for life with others from all walks of life. He certainly succeeded. The Italian painter Renato Guttuso called Matisse's work a "feast for the senses" and "a design for a paradise-like world". With the joyous serenity depicted in his paintings, Matisse superbly "exemplified a love of life and trust in its beauty". The French writer Louis Aragon, like Matisse a member of the French Communist Party, raved about the artists work. His paintings showed "the victorious smile of our times, since mankind has begun to turn away from darkness and, with just this smile, triumphantly confronts the days that are for ever bright and peaceful". In Matisse's paintings the sun is almost always shining and the people he portrays appear carefree. The lightness of being also imbues the five men and women suspended in dreamy abandon between heaven and earth in Dance. Later, Matisse designed sets and costumes for Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in Paris, for he also loved ballet. Dance represented life and rhythm, sparkling with vitality and the freshness of youth. In 1905 Matisse is said to have watched Catalan fishermen dancing the Sardana, an old round dance with abrupt changes of beat and tempo, on the beach at Collioure. Perhaps the memory of this scene is lent expression in Dance. Although Matisse frequented the Paris cafe, Moulin de la Galette, where people danced on Sunday afternoons, he was not sufficiently inspired by the ambience there to paint it. What most likely captured his imagination at the Paris cafe were the intriguing steps of the farandole, an ancient Provencal dance, whose insistent rhythms seem to have underscored his painting.


Henri Matisse


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