Thursday, August 19, 2010

Henri Matisse Biography

Odalisque au Coffret Rouge,1952
“What I dream of is an art of balance, purity and serenity devoid of troubling or disturbing subject matter…like a comforting influence, a mental balm—something like a good armchair in which one rests from physical fatigue.”
                                                   – Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse was born in Le Cateau-Cambrésis in northern France. Matisse first began painting in 1889, when Matisse’s mother gave him art supplies during a period of convalescence following an attack of appendicitis. Henri Matisse discovered “a kind of paradise” in painting, and Matisse abandoned his legal career, to the deep disappointment of Matisse’s father.

In 1891 Henri Matisse moved to Paris to study art at the Acadamie Julian. It was here that Henri Matisse achieved proficiency in academic painting in the classic reserved style. In 1897, Henri Matisse was exposed to the artwork of Van Gogh and the palette of the Impressionists, which deeply changed Matisse’s understanding of color. Henri Matisse was greatly influenced by Neo-Impressionist artists: Eduard Manet, Auguste Rodin, Cezanne, Paul Signac and Gauguin.

Woman with a Hat, 1905
Oil on canvas
Henri Matisse had his first solo show at art dealer Ambroise Vollard’s gallery in 1904. At the 1905 Salon d’Automne, Henri Matisse and artists Andre Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck and Albert Marquet, exhibited together. Henri Matisse and his colleagues’ intensely vibrant, spontaneously painted works were jeered by the public, who deemed them exceedingly primitive, brutal and violent. The group of artists was dubbed “Les Fauves” (the wild beasts) by art critic Louis Vauxcelles. Other Fauvist included: Georges Braque, Raoul Dufy, and Maurice de Vlaminck. Matisse’s painting from the exhibition “Woman with a Hat” was bought by Gertrude Stein, who would become an important collector and supporter of Matisse.

Le Buffet, 1929
Gertrude Stein and her brother Leo were avid patrons of Matisse’s work and through Stein’s salons Henri Matisse was introduced to other important collectors as well as artists. In 1907 Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse met at one of Stein’s salons. This was the beginning of a creative association and rivalry between Picasso and Matisse. “No one has ever looked at Matisse's painting more carefully than I; and no one has looked at mine more carefully than Matisse.” stated Pablo Picasso.

After World War I, Henri Matisse had gained a high reputation and Matisse was awarded the French Legion of Honor in 1925. Henri Matisse was an internationally recognized artist by 1930. During the 1940s Henri Matisse also worked in the Mourlot Studio in Paris, creating black-and-white prints for several illustrated books and over one hundred original lithographs, woodcuts, linocuts, and etchings.

Decoupage, 1954
In 1941 Henri Matisse had two major operations for duodenal cancer which had a devastating effect on Matisse’s health and ability to paint. The surgeries left Matisse unable to stand upright in front of an easel, and Henri Matisse was confined to either a bed or a wheelchair. Undaunted by this immobility, Matisse would tape a piece of charcoal to a long stick and Matisse would draw on mounted paper or directly on the walls or ceilings. Henri Matisse discovered a new kind of artistic creativity with papiers découpés, abstract shapes cut from colored paper. “The paper cut out” Matisse said “allows me to draw in the color. It is a simplification for me. Instead of drawing the outline and putting the color inside it—the one modifying the other—I draw straight into the color”. These artworks rank as some of the most joyous artworks ever created by an artist at an advanced age and Henri Matisse continued creating paper cutout works until his death. In 1947 Henri Matisse published Jazz, a limited-edition illustrated book containing original prints (lithographs, etchings and woodcuts) of colorful, paper cut collages.

Odalisque Sur Fond Rouge, 1929
Henri Matisse died on November 3, 1954 in Nice as an innovative artist who explored color and form through his paintings, lithographs, etchings, linocuts, illustrated books, sculpture and stain glass windows. Pablo Picasso once said about Matisse: "All things considered, there is only Matisse".

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Picasso's Ceramics

Pablo Picasso is considered an artistic master, partly because Picasso’s oeuvre extends far beyond traditional painting methods, and encompasses all artistic mediums including: lithography, etching, linocuts, and even pottery. Picasso gleaned a particular joy in creating ceramics, as evidenced by Picasso’s thousands of ceramic objects including: wittily decorated terra cotta plates, charming ceramic figures, earthenware pitchers, clay masks, glazed plaques and hand-painted tiles, all created with Picasso’s child-like whimsy.

By the late 1940's, Picasso was withdrawing from the pressures of Paris and spending more and more time at the Picasso home Galloise, a villa above the town of Vallauris in the south of France. The town of Vallauris had been blessed with ground that yielded excellent clay, and Vallauris had been an important ceramics-producing center from Roman times to the 1920's. In 1946 Picasso was invited by George and Suzanne Ramie to visit the Madoura pottery factory, and in 1947 Picasso began to create his own ceramics at Madoura. Between 1947-1971 Pablo Picasso created more than 3,000 ceramic objects at the Madoura pottery factory, including: ceramic plates, ceramic pitchers, hand-painted ceramic tiles, enamel glazed ashtrays, ceramic vases, and ceramic plaques. For a decade Picasso would also produced linoleum-cut posters for Vallauris’ small summer Ceramics Festival.

While working in the ceramic medium, Picasso would deliberately mismatch or reposition handles or spouts in order to ingeniously create facial or anatomical features on the ceramic objects. Picasso would pick up discarded scraps of unfired clay to create seated or standing female figures, reiterating Picasso’s reflexive obsession with the female form. When is a vessel just a vessel for Picasso? Almost never. Along with Suzanne Ramie's technical tips, Picasso used unconventional tools for surface patterning such as kitchen knives or perforated cooking utensils. The dominant themes of Picasso’s ceramics became: the face; still lifes, bucolic scenes evoking a mythical Mediterranean past, bullfights, and animals like birds and fish. In short, many of Picasso’s life-long interests conveniently found new expression in the ceramic medium.