Research point 4: Interiors (part 2)

I have struggled with this, at least insofar as trying to come up with a post that makes sense about how interiors have been painted ‘from different periods’. This is a topic for a book, or series of books, as the range of artists to consider goes into the hundreds of thousands, across all cultures and demographics. Just picking out a handful of examples from various decades doesn’t do this topic justice at all, it is an ongoing study, which will continue throughout my life I’m sure. I started a random collection of images of paintings that I felt were compelling some from the Sixties and moving on to current work. I thought a lot about Pierre Bonnard, as I am looking into his art as a focus at the moment for a separate post. Then I thought about artists I am familiar with who have put out a lot of paintings dealing with interiors – the one who stood out the most, not surprisingly, was Matisse. So, I’ve decided to look at his work in more depth to see if there were changes in his approach. To do this, it is necessary to understand the history of his life and chronology of his paintings.

There are detailed biographies/time lines of Matisse’s life on websites like and I have taken these and edited out much of the information, just to concentrate on the information around his paintings.

Chronology (somewhat edited /compared from both sites mentioned above)

December 31, 1869 Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse is born in the cottage of his maternal grandmother in Le Cateau-Cambrésis, France.

1887 Once Matisse finishes school, his father Émile, arranges for his son to obtain a clerking position at a law office. Matisse considers law tedious but passes the bar in 1888 with distinction.

He remains bed-ridden for two years attack after an attack of of appendicitis. Soon after he abandons his studies to dedicate himself to painting after mother buys him art supplies during the period of convalescence. She was the first to advises her son not to adhere to the “rules” of art, but rather listen to his emotions. Matisse said later, “From the moment I held the box of colors in my hands, I knew this was my life. I threw myself into it like a beast that plunges towards the thing it loves.”

1891 Matisse returned to Paris to study art at the Académie Julian

Henri Matisse ‘ Woman Reading’ c 1894

1894 He has a daughter, Marguerite, with the model Caroline Joblau (seen in the painting below – she was a housemaid).

Henri Matisse ‘The Dinner Table’ 1896

1898 Matisse marries Amélie Noellie Parayre when he is twenty-eight. She devotes herself to her husband and urges him to pursue his artistic inclination. During the lean years she hires out as a hatmaker to help make ends meet. The marriage to Amélie also gives Matisse the opportunity to spend winters along the Mediterranean where he describes everything around him as “colour and light”. The couple have two son, Jean (born 1899) and Pierre (born 1900).

1896 Matisse exhibits 5 paintings in the salon of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. The state buys two of his compositions. His work shows the influence of the post-Impressionists Paul Cézanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh and Paul Signac but he is struck by Japanese art as well.

1898 He goes to London to study the work of J.M.W. Turner and then on to Corsica. He bought art by many painters and ended up getting into debt in the process. He had a Rodin bust, a painting by Gauguin, a Van Gogh drawing and Cezanne’s ‘the Three Bathers’.

Henri Matisse ‘Still life with pitcher and fruit’ 1989

His paintings between 1898 and 1901 make us of the ‘divisionist’ technique. Due to material hardships, his paintings between 1902 and 1903 are dark and pre-occupied with form. Sculpture was also prominent in his studies between 1899 and 1903, when ‘The Slave’ was completed.

1900 Matisse earns some money painting a frieze for the World Fair at the Grand Palais in Paris. He traveles widely in the early 1900s when tourism was still a new idea. Brought on by railroad, steamships, and other forms of transportation that appeared during the industrial revolution, travel became a popular pursuit. As a cultured tourist, he developes his art with regular doses of travel.

1901 Matisse exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris and meets another future leader of the Fauve movement, Maurice de Vlaminck.

Henri Matisse – ‘Vase with fruit’ 1901

1904 Matisse’s first solo exhibit in Galerie Vollard – it wasn’t succesful. He goes to St. Tropez, where this brought out his love for colour – he painted, Luxe, Calme et Volupte (Luxury, Calm and Desire).

Henri Matisse ‘Luxe, Calme et Volupte’ 1904

1905 Matisse and a group of artists now known as “Fauves” (Wild Ones) exhibit their paintings together in a room at the Salon d’Automne.

Critics panned the work but ‘The Woman with a Hat’ was bought by Gertrude and Leo Stein, who became long-time patrons of Matisse.

1906 During a gathering at the house of Gertrude Stein, Matisse meets Pablo Picassowho is 12 years younger than him. The two become life-long friends as well as rivals and are often compared to one another. One key difference between them is that Matisse draws and paints from nature, while Picasso is much more inclined to work from imagination.

1910 He spent 2 months in Spain studying Moorish art – this resulted in the use of unmodulated colour.

Henri Matisse – L’Atelier Rouge 1911
Henri Matisse -‘Still life with Aubergines’ 1911

From 1906 -1917 Matisse lives in Paris. He establishes his home, studio, and school at Hôtel Biron. Among his neighbors is sculptor Auguste Rodin, writer Jean Cocteau, and dancer Isadora Duncan. Although intellectually sophisticated, Matisse always emphasizes the importance of instinct and intuition in the production of a work of art.

Henri Matisse – ‘Gold Fish’ 1912

In Morocco, Matisse seems to have had difficulties finding models who would pose for him, particularly women because of the law of the veil. Only Jewesses and prostitutes were exempt. Luckily, Matisse to have found the prostitute Zorah for the purpose  although  he did not paint her as a prostitute. Instead, in his first picture of her, Zorah en Jaune, sexual themes are most conspicuously absent from the canvas. As a prostitute used to exposing and flaunting her body, Zorah could have easily been painted nude or with less clothing to show herself off, but instead Matisse chooses to keep her clothed and posed with prudence. Unlike the primitive, nude Western women in the Fauve Joy of Life. Moroccan Zorah is clothed with respect and detail to her finer characteristics. He is developing his ability to paint with awareness of the non-sexual qualities of his subject, a movement away from Fauve women. (From

Henri Matisse – ‘Zorah on the Terrace’ 1912

Henri Matisse – ‘Entrance to the Kasbah’ 1912

The work of the Fauvists declines but Matisse continues developing his art. He visits Munich and explores exhibitions of Oriental art. He also visits Russia in 1911 and spends much time looking at churches.

1917 Matisse relocates to Cimiez and stays principally at Hotel Regina,on the French Riviera, a suburb of the city of Nice.

Henri Matisse – The Windshield on the road to Villacoublay’ 1917

Some critics said that his work softened during this period and became shallow and decorative.

1930 A new vigor and bolder simplification appear in his work. The American art collector Barnes convinced him to produce a large mural for the Barnes Foundation, The Dance II, which was completed in 1932. The Foundation acquires several dozen other Matisse paintings. He also makes a trip to Tahiti, then visited New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Philadelphia.

Henri Matisse – ‘Tahiti Landscape’ 1931

1935 Matisse meets Lydia Delectorskaya, and by her own account she could hardly have been more different from the dark-eyed, black-haired, olive-skinned southern types Matisse had preferred until then. Lydia, who came from Siberia, had long golden hair, blue eyes, white skin and finely cut features: “the looks of an ice princess,” as Matisse said himself. Lydia survives precariously on nothing but her pride, her resourcefulness and her unbudgeable will. Lydia had introduced herself in the Matisse household for temporary work, first as a studio assistant, then as a domestic, with Matisse and his wife. It was not for another three years that the painter asked her to sit for him.

1939 He and his wife of 41 years separated in 1939.

1941 Matisse is diagnosed with cancer and, following surgery, he begins to using a wheelchair. Until his death he is cared for by Lydia. Matisse, thoroughly unpolitical, is shocked when he discovers that his daughter Marguerite, who had been active in the Résistance during the war, was tortured and imprisoned in the Ravensbrück concentration camp.

Friends try to persuade the aging artist to leave France, but Matisse says, “If all the talented people left France, the country would be much poorer. I began an artist’s life very poor, and I am not afraid to be poor again. . . . Art has its value; it is a search after truth and truth is all that counts.”

1941-1942 While recuperating from two major operations, Matisse concentrates on a technique he had devised earlier: papiers découpés (paper cutouts).

1943 Matisse lives in Vence at the villa “Le Reve” until 1948

1947 Matisse writes and illustrates Jazz; the plates are stencil reproductions of paper cutouts.

Henri Matisse – ‘Red Interior – Still life on a Blue Table’ 1947
Henri Matisse ‘The Silence that lives in houses’ 1947

From 1948 – 1954 Matisse produces interior decoration / stained glass panels for the Dominican chapel of Notre-Dame du Rosaire at Vence (1948-51). In the same year a major retrospective of his work is presented at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and then travels to Cleveland, Chicago, and San Francisco. He continues to make large paper cutouts, the last of which was a design for the rose window at Union Church of Pocantico Hills, New York. At 83 he donated 100 of his works – valued at up to $14,000,000 – -to his hometown of Le Cateau. 1954 Matisse dies of a heart attack at the age of 84. He is interred in the cemetery of the Monastère Notre Dame de Cimiez and a Matisse Museum was opened in the area. At his bedside are his daughter, Mme. Marguerite Duthite; his physician, a nurse and his secretary.

My conclusions
It is clear that Matisse was greatly influenced by Cézanne in his colour work, as well as the structure of his compositions, which are very ‘early Cubist’ (Cézanne, as far as I’m concerned is the father of Cubism). He lends from Cézanne’s way of painting objects in a still life or room from all perspectives. Matisse’s colour work definitely does suffer in some parts of his life – the 1920/21 work is much weaker and hesitant, it’s unclear why this would be happening. I felt that his work done when he had visited Spain and Morocco was his strongest and most virile. His work from 1930 onwards becomes more abstract, colour still continues to be striking and bold, almost shouting out from the canvas. I have not focused on the ‘cut out’ ‘Painting with scissors’ work that he did once he had been confined to a wheel chair, as this is a topic in itself. I also have not featured the over 50 paintings he did of the Italian model, ‘Lorette’ who he travelled with during 1917 (leaving his wife at home)


Images and text are obtained from various sources – predominantely and (text and images) and Bridgeman Education (some images) (about Marguerite Matisse)

YouTube videos – too many to list here but this one looks promising:

Wish list:

I would like to try and get hold of the book ‘Henri Matisse – Rooms with a view’ but as it costs £184.44 plus £21.60 delivery (as at 15/04/2020) I don’t think that’s going to be happening any time soon.

Further notes:

I would like to try and find an app, or method in which I can notate the images with my comments on that particular painting – as I’m finding it rather heavy going posting up the research information/text and images in this current format. It becomes a technical exercise in itself just the posting part – and takes too much time. Additionlly, there is a plethora of information available on these topics that does not need condensing or editing by the likes of me. I feel that links to those facts should suffice where relevant.

6 thoughts on “Research point 4: Interiors (part 2)

  1. Steve Meyfroidt April 15, 2020 — 4:53 pm

    This is quite good for old out-of-print books: . Unfortunately you have to use some awful Adobe software to “borrow” books on your ipad or whatever.

    And I’ve started using as a scrapbook for research (and other course stuff now I’ve got the hang of it a little).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Steve, I will check out the zengobi link … this book that’s on my wish list is quite new, which is why it’s so expensive. There’s a video on Youtube from a book publisher, showing it off – it looks divine.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Steve Meyfroidt April 15, 2020 — 8:19 pm

        Ah OK yes. I just did some research on Matisse and love what he was doing. In my case it was the cutouts that he did at the end of his time but really interesting work through his life.


    2. Ah I think Curio (the Zengobi link) is only for Mac?


      1. Steve Meyfroidt April 15, 2020 — 8:19 pm

        Ah, yes it is. You’re on Windows then? Sorry!

        Liked by 1 person

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