Henri Matisse Open Window Collioure, 1905, is a stunning example of color and creativity. It stands out for its beauty and joy even among famous Matisse paintings.
Henri Matisse painted The Open Window in 1905. He created the artwork simply because he loved depicting open windows and the scenes beyond. Indeed, Matisse painted many open windows throughout his career.
He notably painted window scenes in Nice and Etretat, with works such as Seated Woman Back Turned to the Open Window (1922). In addition, Matisse returned to the theme in later life. Even in the late 1940s, he created window paintings such as Red Interior and Still Life on a Blue Table (1948).
The Open Window shows the view from Matisse’s apartment in Collioure. It was a picturesque small town on the French south coast. Matisse loved visiting this spot and traveled there alongside the painter André Derain.
In the painting, sailboats appear from the two French doors, gently bobbing on the water. Matisse’s potted plants dominate the lower foreground while the hazy, sun-filled sky dances with lilacs and pinks.
Painted from inside Matisse’s hotel apartment, it gives a fascinating insight into Matisse’s way of seeing the world.
Windows have fascinated artists across the centuries. When closed, they can stand for dark emotions and entrapment. When open, they can show deep desires, hope for the future, and a step into the unknown.
One of Matisse’s most abstract and enigmatic works, French Window at Collioure (1914), also depicts an open window. However, this painting shows a black, dark scene beyond.
In addition to their symbolic meaning, windows allowed Matisse to focus on particular scenes and views.
The Open Window first appeared at the Paris Salon d’Automne in 1905. Here, Matisse (alongside other Fauvist painters) experienced extreme critical disdain. The art critic Louis Vauxcelles labeled the group “savage beasts” (translating as Les Fauves), and the name stuck.
With The Open Window, Henri Matisse experiments with Fauvism.
Matisse later became famous for his Fauvist creations. He also led a group of Fauvist artists from 1900 to 1909. This movement included leading painters such as Georges Braque, Maurice de Vlaminck, and André Derain.
These Fauve paintings all used bright, vivid colors. Matisse’s Open Window shows this perfectly, with pure tones and broad, dynamic brushstrokes.
Nonetheless, this is no “simple” artwork. Matisse avoids traditional painterly techniques such as chiaroscuro (opposing light and dark tones), instead dividing the painting into zones of contrasting bright colors.
The painting also uses a wide variety of brushstrokes. These brushstrokes include long blended marks as well as quick, dappled touches. As a result, each area of the room appears in a distinctive style. For instance, softly mixed color adorns the walls and doors, while dotted marks create the plants surrounding the window’s exterior.
The main characteristics of Fauvism paintings include:
The Open Window Matisse hangs in the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C., USA. It measures 55.3 by 46 centimeters.
The painting is part of the Whitney Collection at the museum. This uniquely important collection includes other famous images such as Vincent van Gogh’s 1889 Self-Portrait, The Port of La Ciotat by Georges Braque, and Marcelle Lender Dancing the Bolero by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
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