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The Colorful Nudes Of Henri Matisse That Prove Art Is All About Pleasure

November 23, 2017

Sara Araujo

Nude art is not only a expression of the human body. It is also a burst of sensations.

Have you ever been staring at a painting for a while, and all of a sudden, you get the feeling that your body is filling up with of energy? Like, out of nowhere, you feel happy, somehow satisfied. As if the artwork just gave you a big cup of black coffee. In the vast pictorial repertory, there are lots of paintings that become a joyride for our mind and soul. How is that art can make us feel this way? Among the many factors that affect our perception and response to a painting, colors and figures play a very important role. Because it’s not the same to watch a blue cat standing alone under the night sky, than a red sun shining bright in the middle of a summer morning.

Lorette Reclining (1917)

A famous painter that used colors and forms to provoque particular sensations, such as pleasure and satisfaction, was Henri Matisse, who is considered to be one of the greatest colorists of the twentieth century. Some even describe him as a rival to Pablo Picasso in terms of innovation.

Large Reclining Nude (1935)

Henri-Emile-Benoit Matisse was born in 1869, in a middle-class family. He grew up in Bohain-en-Vermandois and went to school at the College de Saint Quentin, before moving to Paris to study law. A couple of years later, he found a tedious job that made his everyday life dull. At the age of 20, he contracted appendicitis and spent several months at home. While his wounds were healing, he discovered the freedom of painting in solitude.

Odalisque, Harmony in Red (1952)

Struck by his new passion, Matisse left for Paris again, but this time to make his dreams come true. After being rejected from the Ecole des Beaux Arts, Matisse joined the studio of French symbolist painter Gustave Moreau. On a particular day, during one of his lessons, Moreau told his students: "Colors must be thought, dreamed, imagined." This idea inspired Matisse to express himself using an important amount of color in his paintings. This was just the beginning of a lifetime dedicated to pictorial art.

The Joy Of Life (1906)

First he painted stills and landscapes in a traditional style, quickly becoming an expert. As a student, Matisse was influenced by the works of earlier masters such as Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, Nicolas Poussin, and Antoine Watteau. A couple of years later, he took part of an art movement called Fauvism, in which paintings expressed motion with wild and often dissonant colors, without regard for the subject's natural colors. Scholars have described Matisse and Fauvism as pioneers of Abstract Expressionism and modern art. Setting aside the evident quality and innovation in Matisse’s work, his paintings also gave us art lovers something else: pleasure.

Blue Nude (1905)

One of the focuses of Matisse's paintings was the pleasure that has to be felt if you want to be a real art lover. If you’re not really into paintings, you might not enjoy it and appreciate it as a whole. The same happens with music, literature, architecture, and pretty much every other art form.

Reclining Nude with Blue Eyes (1936)

Moreover, when it comes to talking about Matisse’s work, it is known that he intentionally aspired to avoid pain or threats through his paintings. What’s more, Matisse considered the integrity and harmony of the parts as an essential element to his paintings; this way, the mind instantly enjoyed them.

Dance (II) (1910)

Let’s take for example, this painting of a woman in a room gazing into the horizon. This is not simply a portrait of a woman dreaming, but rather a figure becoming one with the whole picture. The woman is not the main subject of the painting, as it happens in other works of art. Every element is equally important to make a wholly integrated image. To do so, he uses bright colors that merge each part of the painting.

A Nude with her Heel on her Knee (1936)

This way, Matisse developed a very beautiful way of appreciating art: with eyes and mind wide open. The reds, blues, and yellows of his paintings convey life and energy, while the calmness of each scene gives us delight.

Nude on a Yellow Sofa (1926)


It isn’t new that art and pleasure are closely related. Partly because the artists intend to provoke this feeling, but also because as human beings, we connect with art through their creator. When we incorporate other elements as fulfillment and elements coming as a whole, the most beautiful works of art also become the most enjoyable to our eyes and hearts.


If you are a fan of pictorial art, you might enjoy reading:

The Artist Who Unveils The True Nature Of The Pleasure Principle

The Lush Secret Garden Of Feminine Pleasure In 25 Paintings


TAGS: art history paintings
SOURCES: The Art Story Henri Matisse Independent

Sara Araujo

Creative Writer


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