Henri Matisse (1869-1954) The Open Window, Collioure (oil on canvas, 1905)

Henri Matisse - The Open Window, Collioure

      In 1905, Matisse and Derain went to stay in the port of Collioure in the south of France and the Fauvist pictures that they painted there revolutionised attitudes towards colour in art. The sheer joy of expression that they achieved through their liberated approach to colour was a shot in the arm for the art of painting. In Matisse's painting 'The Open Window, Collioure' colour is used at its maximum intensity. The window frames, clay flower pots and masts on the yachts have all been painted in a blazing red. These are a bold complement to the range of greens that punctuate the painting. In order to arrange the various colours of the work into an effective composition he creates a counterchange between the greenish wall on the left and its reflected colour in the right hand window, with the purple wall on the right and its reflected colour in the left hand window. To unify the interior/exterior relationship of space, the dense spectrum of colours used inside the room is echoed more sparingly in the distant view through the window.

      At first glance, the apparent freedom of his style seems to deny any skill or technique, but when you begin to analyse his effective use of visual elements you start to realise that there is an instinctive sensibility at work. The key to his success in using such exaggerated colours was the realisation that he had to simplify his drawing. He understood that if he intensified the quality of colour for expressive effect, he must reduce the amount of detail used in drawing the shapes and forms of the image. By applying the same kind of simplification and spontaneity to his drawing and brushwork, Matisse was amplifying the sense of joy that he had achieved through colour. He wrote, "We move towards serenity through the simplification of ideas and form.......Details lessen the purity of lines, they harm the emotional intensity, and we choose to reject them. It is a question of learning - and perhaps relearning the 'handwriting' of lines. The aim of painting is not to reflect history, because this can be found in books. We have a higher conception. Through it, the artist expresses his inner vision."
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