Matisse exhibition Lady Lever Art Gallery Feb 2020 and (some quick facts about the artist and his most famous pieces). 🖼🎨🎭👨‍🎨

These are a collection of my favourite pieces from the Matisse exhibition in the Lady Lever Art gallery- it is on until the beginning of March 2020.

Some quick facts about Matisse:

☆Henri Matisse  didn’t set out to become an artist. As a young man in Paris he studied law, passing his bar exam with distinction and even taking a job as a law clerk.

☆A bout of ill health changed the course of Matisse’s life and career forever. Suffering an acute attack of appendicitis at the age of twenty, he was left on temporary bed rest. During his recovery, Matisse’s mother, Anna Heloise, brought him an assortment of art supplies to help him pass the time, and he fell in love with painting.

☆He was born on New Year’s Eve in 1869 in Le Cateau-Cambrésis in northern France to middle-class grain merchants. 

☆Matisse studied with the French academic painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau in 1891 at the Académie Julian. 

☆ In 1892, Matisse left the academy after an unsuccessful year and struck up what would become a long and fruitful apprenticeship with the Symbolist painter Gustave Moreau, who nurtured the artist’s more experimental inclinations. 

☆ Among his greatest patrons were three American women – the salon-world grande dame Gertrude Stein and sisters Claribel and Etta Cone. The Cone sisters, whom Matisse called “my two Baltimore ladies,” together assembled one of the preeminent collections of his work in the world. 

☆ Matisse was one key leaders of Fauvism, the 20th century’s first avant-garde art movement. Active from roughly 1905 to 1910, Fauvism radically reinterpreted color as an expressive and structural element, divorced from literal description. “When I put down a green, it doesn‘t mean grass; and when I put down a blue, it doesn’t mean the sky,” Matisse declared. 

☆His early paintings were surprisingly conservative, but Matisse experienced an artistic about-face when his friend the Australian painter John Peter Russell introduced him to the work of Vincent van Gogh in 1897. 

☆For the public and some critics, especially in the US, Matisse’s radical use of color was outrageous, even offensive. Reactions could be passionate – in 1913, when Blue Nude (1907–08) traveled to Chicago, students at the Art Institute burned an effigy of the work.

☆While living in Vence, France, at the Villa Le Rêve in the 1940s, Matisse had three cats Minouche, Coussi and La Puce whom he fed pieces of brioche every morning.

☆ Besides his cats, Matisse adored doves, which he purchased from vendors along the Seine. The dove shape appears in many of his cut-outs and it was one of his birds on which Picasso modeled his Dove of Peace (1949). In his last days, Matisse gifted his precious birds to the Spanish artist.

☆ In the last years of his life Matisse was confined to a wheelchair. As painting became increasingly difficult physically, the artist turned to his cut-out technique. He made shapes of paper with a scissor, which he then arranged using a long stick in a technique he called “painting with scissors.” 

Matisse’s most famous work:

Here are the 10 most famous art pieces by Henri Matisse.


Woman in a purple coat (1937).

This is a portrait of Lydia Delectorskaya who was Matisse’s muse and companion in his later life. Amélie Noellie Parayre, the wife of Henri Matisse, suspected an affair between the two leading to her separating from her husband. In the painting, the artist depicts Lydia in an exotic Moroccan costume, surrounded by a complex of abstract design and exotic color.  Woman in a Purple Coat is among the most renowned works in the final groups of oil paintings in Matisse’s career, after which he quit painting in favor of creating paper cut-outs.


The Open window (1905).

This painting depicts the view out of the window of the apartment of Matisse in Collioure, on the southern coast of France. In it, he represents the interior of the room, the window itself, the balcony and the harbor view, with a distinctly different handling of the brush. The Open Window is one of Matisse’s most famous paintings in Fauvism and it is considered an iconic work of early modernism.


Goldfish and Pallete (1914).

During his visit to Morocco in 1912, Matisse noticed that local population, after getting high on opium, would day dream for hours staring at goldfish bowls. When he returned to Paris he installed a goldfish bowl in his studio. Goldfish appear in 9 of his paintings and this is the most famous among them. Matisse initially sketched himself, holding a rectangular palette, just as Paul Cézanne did in an 1885 self-portrait. However, all that remains of him in the final painting is his thumb on the palette. Goldfish and Palette shared a secret link with Picasso’s 1915 Harlequin, which is now interpreted as a barely perceptible self-portrait on a rectilinear canvas his Harlequin alter ego is clutching. Matisse and Picasso, who were close friends as well as arch-rivals, revered Cezanne.


Luxury, calm and pleasure (1904).

Divisionism was the characteristic style in Neo-Impressionist painting defined by the separation of colors into individual dots or patches which interacted optically. It was pioneered by Paul Signac and Georges Seurat. This painting, which is probably based on the view from Signac’s house in Saint-Tropez, uses the Divisionist technique. Luxe, Calme et Volupté is the most famous painting of Matisse in the Neo-Impressionist style. The following year he abandoned the style and became one of the pioneers of Fauvism.


Woman with a hat (1905).

This portrait of Matisse’s wife, Amélie Noellie Parayre, was at the center of the controversy. Its loose brushwork; unfinished quality; and vivid, non-naturalistic colors shocked the public and the critics. Woman with a Hat went on to become one of the most renowned masterpieces of Henri Matisse.


Bathers by the river (1917).

Henri Matisse considered this painting as one of the most important of his career. He worked on it at intervals over 8 years and it passed through a variety of transformations which reflect his new interest in Cubism, an art style he had rejected. With its restricted palette and severely abstracted forms, Bathers by a River is strikingly different from most of the other works of Matisse. It is much analysed and has been a subject of intense scrutiny. That it was painted during the years of World War I adds to the interest in the painting.


Blue nude [Souvenir of Biska]- (1907).

Matisse was working on a sculpture when it shattered accidentally and the broken pieces inspired him to create the most controversial work of his career, Blue Nude. When it was first displayed in 1907 at the Société des Artistes Indépendants, it shocked the French public. The painting later created an international sensation when its effigy was burned in 1913 at the Armory Show in Chicago. Nu bleu is now considered a pivotal work of Matisse’s career. It inspired Pablo Picasso to create one of his most renowned masterpieces, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (The Young Ladies of Avignon).


The Red Studio (1911).

This painting captures the workshop of Henri Matisse with paintings, sculptures and ceramics scattered around his studio. In it the artist has reduced the walls and floor to one continuous sheet of uniform red. Matisse remarked on the relevance of the color, “I find that all these things . . . only become what they are to me when I see them together with the color red”The Red Studio is considered a pivotal work in the history of art and it was ranked number five in a 2004 poll of 500 art experts for the most influential modern art work of all time.


The joy of life (1906).

The Joy of Life was regarded as the most radical painting of its day and it was the breakthrough work of Matisse. It depicts several nude women and men in a landscape drenched with vivid color. A group of dancing figures can be seen in the background. Matisse broke conventions of western painting in this artwork by using techniques like shifting perspectives leading to the painting being out of scale. There was much public outrage when the work was first displayed. However, Le bonheur de vivre is now considered the greatest masterpiece in Fauvism and as one of the pillars of early modernism.


Dance (1910).

Along with Music, this painting was created as part of a two painting commission for Russian art collector Sergei Shchukin. It shows five dancing figures, painted in a strong red, against a simplified green landscape and deep blue sky. The painting exudes “primitive” energy and has been deliberately painted in an unsophisticated and childish way. La Danse is considered a key point in the development of modern paintingremains hugely influential, and is the most famous work of Henri Matisse.

Personally my favourites are: joy of life, luxury calm and pleasure, the open window, but I also love the portraits of women he did in the cutting method.

Which of these is your favourite? Do you like Henri Matisse? Comment below.

I hope you enjoyed this short post.

Until next time,

Faye x


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s