Painted about 1902


I6 1/8 x 12 7/8"

This little view was painted before Matisse discovered himself as a Fauve. A few years later he would not have let aerial perspective mute the cathedral and sky into such tender pinks, lavenders, gray-blues, pale yellows; nor would he have used heavier color to bring the foreground forward. And in any case he would not have used so many intermediary shades of color. This is a kind of shorthand, intensified Impressionism, spontaneous to the exclusion of any program. The sun has just come out after the rain, and the artist catches the effect from his apartment window over the Seine before the dampness has had time to evaporate. The way the paint is laid in may look slapdash, but each quick touch of color actually notes a shift of light and hue in the subject. An unpondered balancing of warm and cool tones assures the unity of the whole -- a unity strong enough to digest the thick, opaque bands of paint in the right foreground. Everything melts and floats in this wonderful picture.




Painted in I903


21 1/2 x 15"

Between 1900 and 1903 Matisse worked intermittently in a "dark" manner, seeking a firmer grasp of the means to a concrete illusion of volume and depth Often in art a procedure about to lose its meaningfulness will be that much the more emphasized in hop of preserving it, but will thereby only become the sooner exhausted and begin to do the opposite of what it is supposed to. This is what is happening with dark and light shading in this picture.

Because the darks are so heavily blocked in, they begin to act decoratively as well as descriptively, flattening the figure instead of modeling it; the color relations, not the shading, are what pry it away from the shallow, variegated backdrop (of which so man other and more vivid versions will appear in Matisse's later art). The bright face of the guitar, slanting across the figure, creates depth and continuity of depth. An the entire composition revolves around the exactly centered black hole, which also acts, rather abruptly and ambiguously, to lock the plane of the figure t that of the dark gap between curtain and wall to the right.




Painted in 1905


32 x 23 1/2"

This canvas states Matisse's original procedure as a Fauve. The utterly unshaded and shadowless colors, however much at variance with nature, are not arrived at arbitrarily. Each change of hue "models" a shift of plane, as with Cézanne, and in addition the "law of complementaries" and "simultaneous contrasts" is followed. Two colors are complementary if their light beams, fused in correct proportion, give a grayish white; each of these same two colors simultaneously enhances the brilliance of the other when contrasted -- so the Impressionists held. Roughly, the complementary pairs are red and green, orange and blue, and yellow and violet. Thus Matisse sees green in the skin as the complementary evoked by its natural pink; paints the hair an orange red to make it complementary to the bluish green in the adjacent part of the hat; and finds blue behind the neck because of the latter's yellow. The somewhat acid effect, here as in other Fauve paintings, is due to the yellowish greens, greenish blues, pinkish reds, and dull oranges in other words, to a tendency to seek yellow everywhere.

A short while later Matisse began to work in fewer, larger, and more homogeneous areas of color.