Henri Matisse, birth name Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse

Matisse, birth name Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse

French Painter, Draughtsman, Printmaker and Sculpter

Author Quotes

I try to condense the meaning of this body by drawing its essential lines. The charm will then become less apparent at first glance, but in the long run it will begin emanate from the new image. This image at the same time will be enriched by a wider meaning, a more comprehensively human one, while the charm, being less apparent, will not be its only characteristic. It will be merely one element in the general conception of the figure.

In reality, I think that the very theory of complementary colors is not absolute. In studying the paintings of artists whose knowledge of colors depends upon instinct and feeling, and on a constant analogy with their sensations, one could define certain laws of color and so broaden the limits of color theory as it is now defined. What interests me most is neither still life nor landscape, but the human figure. It is that which best permits me to express my almost religious awe towards life. I do not insist upon all the details of the face, on setting them down one-by-one with anatomical exactitude. If I have an Italian model who at first appearance suggests nothing but a purely animal existence, I nevertheless discover his essential qualities, I penetrate amid the lines of the face those which suggest the deep gravity which persists in every human being. A work of art must carry within itself its complete significance and impose that upon the beholder even before he recognizes the subject matter. When I see the Giotto frescoes at Padua I do not trouble myself to recognize which scene of the life of Christ I have before me, but I immediately understand the sentiment which emerges from it, for it is in the lines, the composition, the color. The title will only serve to confirm my impression. What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity- and serenity, devoid of troubling or depressing subject- matter, an art which could be for every mental worker, for the businessman as well as the man of letters, for example, a soothing, calming influence on the mind, something like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue. Often a discussion arises as to the value of different processes and their relationship to different temperaments. A distinction is made between painters who work directly from nature and those who work purely from imagination. Personally, I think neither of these methods must be preferred to the exclusion of the other. Both may be used in turn by the same individual, either because he needs contact with objects in order to receive sensations that will excite his creative faculty, or his sensations are already organized. In either case he will be able to arrive at that totality which constitutes a picture. In any event I think that one can judge the vitality and power of an artist who, after having received impressions directly from the spectacle of nature, is able to organize his sensations to continue his work in the same frame of mind on different days, and to develop these sensations; this power proves he is sufficiently master of himself to subject himself to discipline.

One gets into a state of creativity by conscious work.

The chief function of color should be to serve expression.

The whole arrangement of my picture is expressive. The place occupied by the figures or objects, the empty spaces around them, the proportions, everything plays a part.

What I dream of is an art of balance.

You are representing the model, or any other subject, not copying it... Nature excites the imagination to representation. But one must add to this the spirit of the landscape in order to help its pictorial quality. Your composition should indicate the more or less entire character of these trees, even though the exact number you have chosen would not accurately express the landscape.

I want to reach that state of condensation of sensations which constitutes a picture.

In the beginning you must subject yourself to the influence of nature. You must be able to walk firmly on the ground before you start walking on a tightrope.

Perhaps I might be satisfied, momentarily, with a work finished at one sitting, but I would soon get bored looking at it; therefore, I prefer to continue working on it so that later I may recognize it as a work of my mind.

The effort to see things without distortion takes something like courage and this courage is essential to the artist, who has to look at everything as though he saw it for the first time.

There are always flowers for those who want to see them.

What interests me most is neither still life nor landscape: it is the human figure.

You must forget all your theories, all your ideas before the subject. What part of these is really your own will be expressed in your expression of the emotion awakened in you by the subject.

I want to reach the state of condensation of sensations which constitutes a picture. Perhaps I might be satisfied momentarily with a work finished at one sitting, but I would soon get bored looking at it; therefore, I prefer to continue working on it so that later I may recognize it as a work of my mind.

Instinct must be thwarted just as one prunes the branches of a tree so that it will grow better.

Perhaps what we call perfection in art... is no more than the sense of wanting or finding in a human work that certainty of execution, that inner necessity, that indissoluble, reciprocal union between design and matter, which I find in the humblest seashell.

The essential thing is to spring forth, to express the bolt of lightning one senses upon contact with a thing. The function of the artist is not to translate an observation but to express the shock of the object on his nature; the shock, with the original reaction.

There is an impelling proportion of tones that may lead me to change the shape of a figure or to transform my composition. Until I have achieved this proportion in all the parts of a composition I strive towards it and keep on working. Then a moment comes when all the parts have found their definite relationships, and from then on it would be impossible for me to add a stroke to my picture without having to repaint it entirely.

What matters most to me? To work with my model until I have it enough in me to be able to improvise, to let my hand run free.

You study, you learn, but you guard the original naivet‚. It has to be within you, as desire for drink is within the drunkard or love is within the lover.

I was very embarrassed when my canvases began to fetch high prices. I saw myself condemned to a future of nothing but Masterpieces.

It has bothered me all my life that I do not paint like everybody else.

Purer colors... have in themselves, independently of the objects they serve to express, a significant action on the feelings of those who look at them.

The future painter must feel what is useful for his development ? drawing or even sculpture everything that will let him become one with Nature, identify himself with her, by entering into the things ? which is what I call Nature ? that arouse his feelings. I believe study by means of drawing is most essential. If drawing is of the Spirit and color of the Senses, you must draw first, to cultivate the spirit and to be able to lead color into spiritual paths.

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Matisse, birth name Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse
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French Painter, Draughtsman, Printmaker and Sculpter