Characteristics of Matisse Style of Painting

The painting of Henri Matisse incorporates absorbing colors and hues to create lasting impressions of ephemeral moments in time. Matisse created an iconic and stylized mode of painting by integrating several elements of color and texture that have become synonymous with early-20th-century modern art. A great friend and rival of Pablo Picasso, Matisse had a strong influence on artists of his time.


Early Matisse paintings were representative of a style called Fauvism, which some critics described as the work of beasts. The basis for the style involved an unusual attention to color that obscured an object's natural image. For instance, a portrait of a green pasture with a house might use high contrast to create pink grass and a yellow house. Critics of the time viewed his approach and those that worked in this style as absurd and over the top.


Matisse's style incorporates several elements of nature. He created imagery of fields, homes, common fruits and nudes against backdrops of grass, meadows, and rivers. The art approached everyday objects from a standpoint of distortion by presenting real objects in aberrant ways. As his style developed, he became a steward of the French classical style. Many of his later works toned down some of the extravagant colors and brought more realism to the art.


The colors Matisse used depend upon the period of his life under evaluation. In the early period, before 1905, he used vibrant, dramatic and highly emotional colors. As he matured, the art developed into even shapes with a little perspective or three-dimensional shapes. Restricted outlines and emotional content took priority over detail. For instance, he wouldn’t create realistic images of a door and detail all of the parts of a doorknob. Instead, his paintings would aim to represent an emotion associated with that door -- whether freedom, isolation or fear.

Drawing and Sculpture

While the Matisse style mainly deals with paintings, he also dabbled in sculpture and drawing with pen and ink. His drawings were mainly simple, unadorned lines that dealt with subjects of female form and still life. The sculptures helped him visualize his paintings and conceptualize how to transfer those objects to painting. He is quoted as saying “I sculpted like a painter.”


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