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October 12, 2011 / caswelld

Henri Matisse 1918 Self Portrait

Henri Matisse, at the beginning of the 20th century, was the leader of the Fauve  movement.  He latter went on to do more diversified work but was well know for his use of  symbolic color, something he used somewhat boldly at times.  He was also known to exaggerate his color for  expressive effect and, in the process, tended to simplify his drawing.  Matisse believed art should have therapeutic effect, saying that art should have the same effect on a person  that a comfortable armchair has on a tired businessman.

You can see Matisse’s style clearly in his 1918 self-portrait.  The colors are flat and simple and depth is shown through the shapes of the objects within the painting.  The floor,  chair, and case between his legs are all examples of shapes being used to show depth rather then color and tone (color and tones being used in earlier styles).  Depth is also shown using overlapping objects.  For example, Matisse is overlapping the washbasin;  Matisse is at the front of the room relative to the observer while the washbasin is at the back.

As far as color theory goes, there are there are four main colors in the painting, though I  am not sure how important they are: White, Brown, Red, and Purple. The washbasin is white, and I do not think this is accidental; white is often used to show purity and cleanliness. Matisse is brown, which could be representing the artists humility despite the fact this is a self-portrait.  The wall purple and purple tends to represent wealth or power.  I am not sure how this may relate to the painting, it just may be the background color he choose or it may have to do with the power of art or something similar.  Finally, the rug is red which is often used to represent danger, anger, violence, love, and passion.  It may have something to do with his passion or art.


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