Henri Matisse was one of the most influential artists of the early 20th century. He achieved this status primarily through the revolutionary use of brilliant color. Matisse often exaggerated form to express emotion. Born in 1869, Henri Matisse first began a career in law. However, in 1891, he began to study art. He started by taking a drawing class in the morning before he went to work. Then, at age 21, while recuperating from an illness, his true vocation as an artist was confirmed. As has happened in the lives of many artists, Matisse decided it is never too late to follow your passion. Matisse went through many changes in his style and was influenced both by artists who came before him as well as contemporaries. He was particularly taken by the work of Georges Seurat and Paul Signac who painted in a “Pointillist” style with small dots of color rather than full brushstrokes.
A love of bright colors is what Matisse is most known for today. He produced major creative breakthroughs in the years 1904-05 eventually leading to the emphasis on capturing mood rather than merely trying to depict the world realistically.
I was drawn to Still Life with Apples on a Pink Tablecloth because of the unique placement of the composition and the majestic use of color. Like many of the paintings that hang at the National Gallery of Art (NGA), the years have somewhat dulled the paint used by the original artist. I try to imagine what the painting looked like when it was created in 1924 and try my best to reach back in time to recreate the luster that was intended by Henri Matisse. It is always a challenge but what a privilege it is to be at the NGA doing what I love to do. I don’t even think twice when I have to wake up at 4:30 am every Tuesday morning to begin the 50 mile journey to the museum. I’m currently in gallery #81. Stop by and say hello!