Henri Matisse and Modernism

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Some would describe modernism to be the rejection of convention in the modern period. Henri Matisse is an artist who worked through the modern period and his work exemplifies the characteristics that apply to the attempted definitions of modernism and modernity. ‘To pick out a work of art as exemplifying modernism is to see it as belonging to a special category within the western culture of the modern period’ (1) So what is it that defines certain works of art and that places them in this category? I feel the best way to address the subject of modernism is to look at the works of art that have been placed in this ‘category’. Matisse is undoubtedly one of the key artists of the modern period and looking more closely at his work in relation to modernism you can begin to understand what visual aspects it is that create his title as a modernist. Saying this it is not always easy to connect these works of art visual physical evidence of modernity. (1) Looking at Henri Matisse in relation to the historical period he worked during brings me to question whether that it was simply the time these paintings were created that gives them the value to place them in the category of modernism. ‘The origins of modernism have been variously located at times between the late eighteenth century and early twentieth’ (1) Looking at the work created previously to Matisse from which he got a lot of inspiration and spent most of his career recreating. I can see clearly it is not only the time in which he was working that adds the value of modernism to Matisse's work. There is a clear trend to the style of painting that runs through the group of artists that are considered to be part of the modernism movement. For example the work of Andre Derain and Vincent Van Gough however I see the clearest link to the work of Paul Cezanne. Matisse’s work was very much influenced by that of Paul Cézanne particularly the construction of his work, ‘“construction by coloured surfaces” whether the colour...
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