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Wednesday, 22 July 2015


Henri Matisse, 'Woman with a Hat', 1905 © Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
'With colour one obtains an energy that seems to stem from witchcraft.' - Henri Matisse. 

'The nastiest smear of paint I have ever seen.'- Leo Stein. 

This vibrant portrait depicts Matisse's wife, Amelie in an elaborate outfit favoured by the French bourgeoisie; she is wearing a long glove and sophisticated hat. First exhibited at the 1905 Salon d'Automne in Paris, the painting was heavily criticised by contemporaries who were shocked by the non-naturalistic use of colour inspired by Paul Signac's use of complementary colour as well as the loose, 'unfinished' brushwork. Interestingly, the work encapsulates Matisse's rejection of the idea that art had to imitate the appearance of nature. The work identifies a shift in his individual style and the artist's use of colour is purely expressive; when asked about his wife's dress, Matisse allegedly replied that it was 'Black, of course.' 

This painting became a seminal example of Fauvism, a controversial movement that became closely associated with the artists who displayed their work in the central gallery of the Grand Palais in Paris. The movement had its roots in the symbolic use of colour practiced by Paul Gauguin and was characterised by strong hues and a flattening of spatial depth, which marked a break from the more representational use of colour that defined Impressionism. 

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