Saturday, June 21, 2014

Expressionism (pt. 1)

After the Post-Impressionists, a group of French painters, led by Henri Matisse, rose to the scene by about 1905.  These artists called themselves Fauves, which literally translates to "Wild Beasts."  These Impressionistically trained artists took Van Gogh's ideas of colors, movement, and design, and made a style that was unrealistic, free, and wild.  Fauvism takes direct inspiration from the later works of Van Gogh and is usually considered as a branch of Expressionism, an art style that conveyed personal emotion over objective subject matter.
Matisse, like Van Gogh, began painting realistically according to the tradition of art developed during the Victorian Period, but he was mainly interested in design, not lifelike images.  With all the possibilities of art opening up at the close of the 19th century, the new millennium saw the outpouring of radically unique styles from all sorts of different angles or viewpoints.  For Matisse, paintings did not need to convey realistic-looking shapes or colors to convey the feelings or aesthetic qualities of a given subject.  He made use of flattened, arranged patches of color, almost like Cézanne's later work, and did away with unnecessary details.  One gets a good example of this technical form in the artist's painting of a Woman with a Hat.
Remembering the explosion of color thrown into Van Gogh's paintings and even the Tahitian paintings of Paul Gauguin, we can see here the approach to color taken to an utmost extremity.  Hardly anything is painted in its proper hue, except maybe the woman's eyes.  Everything is painted with an unpredictable overflow of artistic independence and creative license.  The woman is the artist's wife, and Henri Matisse has spared no expense at infusing his wife's image with as much characteristic flare as possible.  How else could a painting be able to convey the breadth of human personality?  How else can one truly recreate a proper image of someone so expressive and so full of life?  Matisse's painting is almost trying to escape from itself through vibrant colors; they vividly radiate off the canvas and burst out of the frame with activity and energy.

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