Henri Matisse Use Of Color Analysis

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In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, many artists, among them Paul Signac, Henri Matisse, and Franz Marc, developed new languages of representation and color to move away from the traditions of illusionism. With approaches ranging from the scientific to expressionist, these three artists made choices about color that ran counter to traditional notions of painterly technique. In addition to their varied techniques, Signac, Matisse, and Marc had different ends in mind for their respective styles. Overall, through developing new languages of color, these three artists subverted the time-honored styles of academy art and pushed painting into the 20th century. Paul Signac was among the most important Neo-Impressionists, a well-organized movement…show more content…
Matisse broke the rules of the academy in a similar manner to the Neo-Impressionists, though Matisse’s use of color was far less systematic and relied more on emotion. Though Matisse was reluctant to theorize his style, he did so after enough prodding from critics: “My choice of colors does not rest on any scientific theory; it is based on observation, on feeling, on the very nature of each experience. Inspired by certain pages of Delacroix, Signac is preoccupied by complementary colors and the theoretical knowledge of them will lead him to use a certain tone in a certain place. I, on the other hand, merely try to find a color that will fit my sensation.” (Henri Matisse, reprinted in Theories of Modern Art, p. 135) One work that captures both Matisse’s respect for Signac and departure from the scientific approach is his early Fauvist piece Luxe, Calme, et Volupté (1904). The sky in this painting contains dots not unlike Neo-Impressionist divisionism, though while Signac and others carefully chose their colors to create maximum harmony, Matisse chooses the colors that border one another according to his own whims and fancies. The goal for Matisse may still well be harmony, though it’s a personal harmony that belongs to the moment at which he painted. In addition, Matisse’s highly individual painting style divorces his work from any…show more content…
His approach to color was both individual and systematic: “Marc also devised a color symbolism to modulate the moods of this flow: blue was ‘severe’ and ‘spiritual’; yellow, ‘gentle’ and ‘sensual’; red, ‘brutal’ and ‘heavy.’” (Hal Foster et al., p. 99) This language is represented in his Large Blue Horses (1911) through the titular blue horses, the red mountains, and the yellow ground. Marc brings color to its most elemental, favoring primary colors and using instinctive associative meanings. Though his work is certainly expressionist through having color represent emotion, Marc uses a systematic expressionism in which he teaches the viewer to read and understand his paintings. Through this technique, Marc creates works that are both highly individual, and able to be understood by the masses, at least partially achieving the goals of both Matisse and Signac, and creating a new language of color in the process. Overall, these three artists approach color with different techniques and goals, though ultimately all creating new languages for avant-garde painters to
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