Henri Matisse - Reader on a Black Background - 1939 - 92 x 74 cm
I would like to engage further with the wonderful movement Matisse provides, both with colour and with his sophisticated use of pattern within shapes.
Let’s begin with colour. When we focus on a colour we intuitively take in the same colour else-where in the composition. This creates movement which Matisse orchestrates through scale and placement, like musical notes, determining lyrical engagement.
For example, when we look at the blue rectangles, we also sense the blues in the bouquet, as well as the vertical in the white rectangle at the right edge of the painting. Do you feel the circular movement? The little notes of blue on her shoes ensure we are not held in a tight area at the right of the composition, and instead bring us gently to the left, to engage with the wonderful movement through the warms of the figure and the small notes above and to the right. The same goes for the other colours as well. I should note that the temperature of the colours is also a factor in movement as we connect the orange with the red shapes Matisse provides the lyrical harmony through using shape motifs.
Another great consideration is using patterns within shapes. In other words, not permitting the complexity of the subject to disrupt the harmonious relationships of the shapes. In the bouquet, Matisse does this beautifully by treating it as an oval containing an arrangement of smaller ovals. The two white oval shapes containing the pattern of yellow ovals and grey markings (which match the line drawings) are a great example of pattern within shapes. Even the light grey areas in the bouquet with the blue markings read as ovals.
These are considerations used by many artists and Matisse did it better than anyone.
Paul Klee - Forest Bird - 1920 - 14 x 22 cm - watercolour on chalk undercoat over gauze on paper
Klee is one of the great masters of colour and composition, as this gorgeous painting conveys. I marvel at his sophistication and will do my best to convey his colour temperature ratio and rhythmic integrations.
Colour temperature ratio is the relationship of warm and cool. We can see it in the influence of the cool blues on the warm orange and red shapes. The blues poetically energize the warms without competing, creating lyrical variations that are music for the eye.
The black shapes are beautifully balanced and supported by the dark grayish shapes as well as three smaller brown shapes. Can you feel the relationship of the bird’s gaze with the brown shape at the right edge of the painting and how the other two brown shapes return you to the bird? It’s wonderful.
The sensitive parallels provide a structural rhythm that is more felt than seen. One great example is the relationship of the bird’s front leg, the black line in its eye, the brown line under the orange circle and the black line leading to that magnificent green circle. The other leg has parallel support as well.
The background shapes run into each other in a number of places, integrating the painting beautifully. The bottom of the foreground shape of the bird’s neck connects to the edge of the blue shape beautifully. Klee masterfully provides exceptions to the integrations such as the closed shapes of the circles and where the orange touches the blue just above the bird’s beak. We sense the variation.
Klee used the consideration of pattern within shapes on the bird. To hold the viewer just perfectly.
I think how Klee sensitively provides the feeling of the forest is magnificent and I absolutely love that green circle which is beyond explaining.
Henri Matisse - First Orange Still Life - 1899 - 56 x 73 cm - oil on canvas
Permitting the work of notable artists to show in your development has a great tradition, and can lead to a commitment or direction. The key is being aware of the difference between influence and copying.
The above development level painting by Matisse is a good example of having too many considerations . We have difficulty moving gracefully through the painting because he is more focused on information (what he sees), rather than adjusting for the sake of composition.
Henri Matisse - Still Life with Oranges II - 1899 - 47 x 55 cm - oil on canvas
In this painting, done in the same year, Matisse is permitting Cezanne’s considerations of reduced modelling by allowing shapes and colour to come forth. He has become aware of the power of shapes and colour and how to use them to create harmony in composition. We see this in the fruit, the cup and the pitcher as well as the large shapes in the background. How he chose where not to use shadows is impressive because he is freeing himself from depiction. He reduced the fruit on the table to coloured circles because through studying Cezanne, he realized that modelling would only disrupt the rhythm of the circles and unnecessarily clutter the painting, as we see in “First Orange Still Life” above.
He did not copy, as he flattened the fruit more than Cezanne had done. We see the influence as well as the next step towards what we see as a Matisse.
Showing influence and acknowledging it is a great way to develop.
Ben Nicholson - Still Life with Jugs and Mugs -1929 - 38 x 56 cm - oil and pencil on canvas
This, what may seam to be a simple painting is really very sophisticated, and Nicholson was successfully developing his approach to the wonderful spatial considerations being refined in the twentieth century.
He has subtly provided us a sense of movement (our movement) by altering our position in space when we view the mugs from above and from a level position simultaneously. You are meant to sense it more than to see it, and the sophistication of his elegant simplicity is wonderful.
I love how he also provides us with the sense of space by rendering the mug handles in front of the mugs. This has stayed with me for years and I hope you can you feel and appreciate it. The handles also provide a lovely rhythm, integrating the two mugs with the jug at the right. Nicholson also provided other beautiful rhythms with the vertical bands on lower mug and the horizontal bands of colour on the pictures and the mug in the centre, which obviously brings us to the focus with strong use of colour. I feel the strong white shape balances with the strong combination of the green and reds and their combined power is on the verge of dominating. This is a great example of colour ratio, or in other words not having the colour compete or dominate the wonderful subtle considerations in the rest of the composition.
It is a joy to engage with Nicholson’s wonderful journey towards becoming a true master.