Henri Matisse:Goldfish

Art History
Henri Matisse: Goldfish
Henri Emoile Matisse, born in 1869, is regarded as one of the “great formative figures in 20th-century art”, as well as the leader of the Fauve group. Fauvism is defined as “an early-20th-century movement in painting begun by a group of French artists and marked by the use of bold, often distorted forms and vivid colors.” Matisse was associated with this group due to his use of vivid colors, as well as his unusual style of presenting objects. Many critics at this time called him, as well as other artists with similar styles, “a disgrace for art and therefore called them ‘The Fauves’. The Fauves means ‘Wild Beasts’, a name that the artists of the group accepted with pride.” The main goals of the artists in this movement were to break away from the rigid Impressionist movement, and begin using bolder colors, as well as their own interpretations of shapes. The work of Matisse is based on the principals and possibilities of ‘leaving out’. The human mind can fill in what is missing in the painting, like dimension, details and plastical forms. The Fauves expressed their feelings of joy for life and joy for art and painting. Fauvism paved the way for future styles of art, and was considered radical in the early 20th century.

Henri Emoile Matisse was born in Le Cateau in northern France on December 31, 1869. The son of a middle class family, his first career was in the law field. However, an appendicitis attack in 1890 rendered him bedridden, and with much time on his hands, he began to study the art of painting. To help alleviate his boredom, his mother bought him a paint box, and thus began his new passion: painting. In 1893, the work of Matisse was noticed by Gustav Moreau, (1826-1898) French painter, who developed a distinctive style in the Symbolist mode. Matisse displayed his work for the first time in 1896 at the Salon de la Societe Nationale’. In 1903, Matisse was exposed to the pointillist paintings of Henri Edmond Cross and Paul Signac. Pointillism was a late 19th-century method of painting, consisting of depositing small dots or strokes of pure color on the canvas. Seen from a distance, these “points” blend and give the effect of a different color and heightened luminosity. The style, a development of impressionist color theories, was originated by the French painters Georges Seurat and Paul Signac. Matisse adapted this style into his own art work, and thus produced some of his boldest and most vivd art images ever. In 1905, Matisse, along with Andre Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck, exhibited their works for the first time. The critics referred to this showing as les fauves, or “the wild beasts”. The work I have chosen to analyze, The Goldfish, produced in1912, is an excellent showcase of what, I feel, Matisse is heralded for.

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The composition of The Goldfish seems to predominately have diagonal lines of organization, as well as a few vertical. The leaves, plant leaves and the whitish-blue railing in the foreground all lean towards diagonal lines. The stems of the leaves in the upper rught hand corner are at a seventy degree angle, whil the plant stems to the right of the leaves vary from fifty to ninety degree angles. The base of the table, where the fishbowl is sitting, is the main vertical line. The fishbowl also shows vertical organization, mainly due to its shape and placement in the picture. The main focus of this piece is the fishbowl that is sitting on the center of a round pinkish table. There are four orange goldfish in the bowl, which is actually a larger, vertical, square-like bowl. It is not the ordinary fishbowl that one associates with fishbowls, but wider and longer. It is shaped like a very large glass. Directly behind the fishbowl are very large plant leaves, as well as pink flowers and green plants that seem to be floating on a pink wall/background. To the left of the table, there is an object that could either be a railing or an arm of a chair. To the bottom right and center of the bowl is a predominately black background, with a few green leaves with pink flowers in the immediate right-hand lower corner. It seems that Matisse definitely wants the goldfish bowl to be the center of the painting.
Fascinatingly, Matisse was able to create the image of the fish suspended in water. The way the fish are positioned is such that they seem to be in movement; one is looking head on, and the three others are at an angle, which gives the viewer the sense that they are looking at a live fishbowl. He also incorporated the orange reflection of the fish at the top of the bowl, as if you were looking at it almost from the top of the bowl, but at an angle. The fishbowl is the largest item in the painting, so I would have to say that his style is idealized, yet abstract. The image of the fish inside the fishbowl is an accurate replica of a real fishbowl, however, it seems larger than life, and is not clearly defined. Matisse captures the reflection of the plants in the background, as seen in the back part of the fishbowl. The image does have a sense of depth, mainly created by the black background that is found to the right as well as around the whole table. However, the depth stops there, due to the flatness created by the plants that are surrounding the top of the fishbowl, and the pink background above the fishbowl. This prevents the illusion of spatial recession. Plants and flowers are repeated in most of the painting, with the main focus on green leaves and pink flowers. There are two plants on the table that are situated on opposite sides of the fishbowl. They are both in small yellow-brown pots. The plant to the left has larger, green oblong leaves, while the plant to the right has smaller, yellow oblong leaves that seem as if they are dying. The whole image seems to be a bit visually complex and very busy in certain areas, while others are sparse and bare. The colors are what make this painting stand out; they are bold, vivid and striking.

While Fauvism was a relatively short-lived movement, it began a whole new genre of expression through art. The Fauvists believed that use of colors , especially non-naturalistic use of colors, was a medium through which the artist could convey emotion. Many Fauvists used color as an emotional force. Henri Matisse is the best example of this movement. His bold use of colors, and obscurity of color placement, exhibits what the Fauves were hoping to accomplish; artistic freedom. Fauvism paved the way for Cubism, as well as other movements, and is considered the forefather of the change in artistic style that is still present today.
“Matisse, Henri Emile Benoit,” Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2003
http://encarta.msn.com 1997-2003 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
Copyright 2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

“Matisse, Henri Emile Benoit,” Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2003
http://encarta.msn.com 1997-2003 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.


http://www.the-artfile.com/uk/index.htm
http://www.the-artfile.com/uk/index.htm
“Matisse, Henri Emile Benoit,” Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia 2003
http://encarta.msn.com 1997-2003 Microsoft Corporation. All Rights Reserved.