Henri Matisse Prints

Written by Serena Berger
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Henri Matisse prints are exemplars of the Fauvist movement. Interestingly, this name came from a derogatory remark by a critic who said that Matisse and a few of his compatriots painted like fauves, or wild beasts. Matisse chose to take the remark and run with it, embracing the idea that his work was unfettered and primal.

Henri Matisse prints typically portray very simplified figures using vivid colors and create unabashedly unreal scenes. Matisse was convinced that leaving out certain elements was as important as including them in a painting. Dimension, details, and entire forms are left out of his paintings, but the observer somehow fills them in, and, in so doing, forges a relationship with the painting.

Henri Matisse prints are often composed of broad figures in primary colors. Some of his most popular prints are in the Blue Nude series. These feature simple two-dimensional figures, with nothing but negative space defining their forms. Despite their simplicity, they are quite moving and unmistakably the work of Matisse.

Cutouts as the Basis for Henri Matisse Prints

While ill, Matisse began working with cutouts of drawing paper that was brightly painted and arranged to form brilliant but simple compilations of both elegant lines and colors. A series of 20 of these cutouts was published together in a book, Jazz, the title of which may have been a link perceived by Matisse between the vibrancy and liveliness of his work and the energetic musical style. The most popular of these images is Icarus, the mythical son of Dedalus, falling through the star filled sky.


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