According to Matisse’s artistic enemies, he was a “raging animal” mocking their comfortable realism with bright colors and unconventional forms. Henri Matisse paintings always carried a personality of an unconventional artist
In later years, visitors to his home and studio were surprised to find a mild-mannered gentleman in spectacles and a well-tailored suit. The maniac he was labeled as had never existed, but perhaps it was his creative intensity that was mistakenly perceived as insanity. The challenge, then, was to utilize this passion as a means to achieve the serenity he really wanted out of life.
[caption id="attachment_7349" width="596"] Green Stripe by Henri Matisse[/caption]
It’s been said that from the moment he held a box of colors in his hand, Matisse knew he was destined to be an artist. After his first attempt at copying a lithograph, he wasted no time in enrolling at a local art academy. However, his insatiable creative appetite would not allow him to stop there – after a long and arduous battle with his father, Henri Matisse arrived in Paris in October, 1891.
Taming the Beast
After years of struggling to find his authentic voice as a painter, Matisse finally experienced a breakthrough with his 1905 portrait of Amelie.
[caption id="attachment_7350" width="293"] Henri Matisse Painting[/caption]
Depicted in a soft pink dress rendered with blocks of lavender and sienna, the subject’s face and clothing also contained strokes of green in contrast to these warm tones. Rather than an accurate representation of Amelie’s face, or a metaphorical statement suggesting some kind of jealousy in her expression, the artist’s use of an inaccurate color was an attempt at utilizing the complementary relationship of red and green. As opposites on the color wheel, the two pigments produce a jarring contrast when placed next to each other in a composition.
[quote_colored name="" icon_quote="no"]There are always flowers for those who want to see them.[/quote_colored]
Matisse was fascinated by this interaction of color and saw the opportunity to achieve a new kind of harmony in his work.
Unfortunately, his audience failed to see the genius in this unconventional innovation. At the Salon d’Automne that year, the portrait was placed next to an academic sculpture that had been dubbed “a Donatello among the wild beasts”, scornfully dismissing the early Impressionist’s freedom of color and its application on the canvas.
Like wildfire, the comment spread, and reviews soon depicted Matisse as a talentless brute attempting to negate the understood artistic conventions of his time. He began to despair, sure that he had made a mistake in his attempt to capture harmony through contrasting colors. But through the saving grace of daring collectors and the support of other avant-garde artists, Matisse was able to push through these feelings of doubt and continue growing as a painter.
[caption id="attachment_7351" width="900"] The Dance by Henri Matisse[/caption]
In one of his most famous works, titled “The Dance”, Henri drew on the memory of Catalan fisherman he had once seen dancing on the Mediterranean coast.
The bright red figures holding hands, twirling and swaying against a sharp blue-green horizon in the background. The simplicity of its composition and the five sinewy bodies in motion captures a primal energy, the colors pulsing against one another.
[quote_colored name="" icon_quote="no"]It has bothered me all my life that I do not paint like everybody else.[/quote_colored]
Critics called his painting bestial and primitive, and its commissioner nearly backed out of the deal.
Some hundred years later, “The Dance” is one of Matisse’s most recognizable works. He is now regarded as one of art history’s most influential pioneers of Modernism and a pivotal member of the Impressionist movement in painting.
His dedication to the free use of color and the refusal to adhere to his time period’s artistic conventions immortalize Henri Matisse not as an untamed beast, but the unsung hero of any creative soul who’s been told their work is too different to be good.
Sacred Profanity and the Eternal Flame
Henri Matisse is one of many solar flares in the narrative of art history who was underappreciated for his entire life.
Who knows how many creative careers have been cut short, due to the difference of opinion that places value on the work of some artists and condemns the attempts of others. In such cases, it is only the passion of the artist that makes his or her creative process worth such trouble.
Toward the end of his life, Matisse longed to create something monumental that would serve as his legacy. He was profoundly disappointed when nobody asked him to design a state building or museum, as was his dream.
When the opportunity arose to create the Rosaria Chapel, Matisse wasted no time in accepting the commission. This was to the surprise of his friends, who knew him as a steadfast atheist.
A baffled Pablo Picasso inquired, “Why not paint a brothel, Matisse?” To which the artist replied, “No one asked me to.”
Read about the origins of Fauvism and Expressionism
A question often asked - Why Is Mona Lisa Painting Famous? At first glance, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa appears to be just another portrait of a woman. The work, painted sometime between 1503 and 1519, features a brown-eyed woman with dark hair, a wide forehead, and a round chin. She’s seated, hands resting on the arm of a chair. A varied natural setting, comprised of roads, rivers, trees, and hills sits behind her.
And yet the masterpiece revolutionized the art of portrait-making.
[quote_colored name="" icon_quote="no"]There’s the woman’s posture, which invites an interaction with the work’s viewer that had never before existed. Her upper body is tilted to face the viewer, lending a sense of movement to her otherwise static figure. [/quote_colored]There’s the inclusion of a dramatic and varied landscape in the background, a tactic which had rarely been used either.
Ask people what is most distinctive about the Mona Lisa, however, and they will time and again cite the figure’s enigmatic gaze and mystifying smile.
“Do you smile to tempt a new lover, Mona Lisa?” hummed King Cole in his 1950 hit song named after the portrait. “Or is this your way to hide a broken heart?”
Her smile is slight and not evocative of any particular emotion. But what sets the Mona Lisa apart from similar portraits that da Vinci had painted of other women in the history of the work itself.
An Artist and A Scientist
The story of the Mona Lisa’s evolution helps illustrate why the painting itself is so dazzling. Da Vinci wasn’t just a painter; he found himself being drawn to engineering and scientific discovery as well. After completing the portrait, he spent time in both Milan and Rome, where he studied anatomy and served as an architectural advisor, before leaving Italy for good in 1516.
He moved to rural France and abandoned the art of painting for the most part. Instead, he spent time with King Francis I, making sketches of landscapes and festivals for the royal family. After Da Vinci died unexpectedly of a stroke in 1519, the French crown took possession of the Mona Lisa. It remained in the royal family and out of the public eye for several centuries.
When Napoléon Bonaparte, leader of the French Revolution, came to power, he took an interest in the work. He had the portrait hung in the Louvre – where it still lives to this day – in 1804.
Despite its public unveiling, the Mona Lisa didn’t receive much attention or praise at the time. The works of Michaelangelo and Raphael, for instance, were far more popular.
Fast forward a half century, when France’s symbolist poets sparked a renewed fascination with the work and connected it with Renaissance. Much of their poetry revolved around the “femme fatale,” a woman believed to be as seductively dangerous as she was beautiful.
The Subject of a Global Investigation
The painting became the emblem of drama and intrigue after it went missing in 1911. A group of young Italian men, led by a former museum employee, snuck into the museum and walked out on a Sunday afternoon with the work in tow, according to Smithsonian Mag. It’s wasn’t until a museum visitor alerted the Louvre more than a day later that the spot on the wall where the painting should have hung was empty.
The heist made headlines around the world. Visitors flocked to the museum to see the empty spot on the wall where the work once hung. The mystery surrounding the work’s whereabouts turned into a massive international search, culminating in 1913 when the thief, Vincenzo Perugia, tried to sell it to a Florentine art dealer. It indisputably became the most famous piece of art in the world.
Why is Mona Lisa Painting Famous? – Five Interesting Specialties
One of the extremely well known and most admired masterpieces and has always considered as one of the best known, the most valued, the most visited and the most written about work of art in the world
Da Vinci invented a technique called – SFUMATO – where he applied different tones, colors, and shades to build the overall boundaries of the work, rather than using outlines to define the base illustration of the subject. For a painter, it is one of the toughest challenges that one would undertake, but can leave a high sense of satisfaction if the technique goes well
Many debates and theories exist on the absence of eyebrows as some suggest it is a fashion statement of the period, while others argued that it is an unfinished work. There is an alternative theory suggests that the eyebrows were there, but disappeared during the course of time.
When the painting went missing in 1911, the event generated much hype and the heist made headlines around the world, where the people flocked to the museum to see the empty wall where the work once hung
It is definitely enigmatic – A grin that was brought to life by Da Vinci through his SFUMATO technique, which researchers have concluded that it was achieved by applying more than forty layers of very thin lacquer.
The painting’s subject is Lisa Gherardini, whose wealthy husband Francesco Del Giocondo commissioned the work. The name ‘Mona Lisa’, roughly translates to ‘My Lady Lisa’ is a polite form of addressing ‘my dear lady’, thus became the most relevant name in the art world
[quote_colored name="" icon_quote="no"]The muted color scheme, sfumato technique, well blended and transitioned gradients applied by Da Vinci, combined with an aerial perspective of the subject, enigmatic smile, mysterious posture and a surreal touch toward the background landscape exemplifies Da Vinci’s mastery as an artist[/quote_colored]
It's Beloved for a Reason
Appreciation for the artistic wonders of the painting increased over time. In this case, it took more than 300 years for the painting to begin receiving the recognition it deserved. And there’s nothing wrong with a little infamy in order to gain the mass appreciation for a work of art, right?
Of the many reasons the Mona Lisa painting became famous, we are particularly in awe of the unique technique used. Da Vinci used a new brushstroke to paint his subject. He would paint one layer and then have to wait for it to dry before beginning on the next layer. It’s actually the reason why the colors in the work are so dark – he hadn’t yet perfected the technique.
The Louvre fought for years to treat the Mona Lisa painting like any other work in the building. Ultimately, they caved to the demands of museumgoers who were coming in droves to gaze into Lisa’s eyes. It now hangs in its exhibit space within a climate-controlled, bulletproof enclosure.
Not too shabby for a run-of-the-mill portrait painted by a man famous for never finishing anything.
Art and design - both involve compositions, using physical and visual means. Both share a base of knowledge and skill. Both involve applying imagination and creativity to the concepts they address. And yet they are not the same – obviously, you might think, of course, they are not the same. Difference between art and design is a continuing debate - So, Is there a difference?
As both fields have developed over the years, people have tried to separate the two. This is more difficult than one might think.
Design is no longer following cut and dried rules, and art is no longer just pictures in a gallery.
What if the architect that creates a building with curved, sloped sides, so that it looks like a continuation of the landscape – is this design or art? And what of the artist who uses typography and stencils as their medium – is this art or design?
[quote_colored name="" icon_quote="no"]
The first argument one can make is that design is, in fact, a kind of art in its own right and that the attempt to separate them is meaningless. The other is that they are completely distinct practices that happen to share some attributes[/quote_colored]
Yet what each of these ideas seems to end up doing is arguing both sides. By pointing out the places where they diverge, we must also show the places where they fit together and vice versa. One of the recent researches has arrived a table to illustrate the differences between art and design, but in doing so had to find points of contrast that fit together.
[caption id="attachment_7288" width="452"] Difference between art and design[/caption]
Art, for example, was said to be an abstraction of the concrete, while the design was a concretization of the abstract. Art was said to act on the mind, while design acted on reality, and so on.
[quote_colored name="" icon_quote="no"]One cannot deny the differences between art and design. Yet the two still remain inextricably linked; in a gracious harmony with one another.[/quote_colored]
How far does this relationship go?
Art Questions, Design Answers
The typical approach to a piece of art is not to ask “what is its purpose?” but rather “what does it mean?” – a question that, invariably, leads to more questions. Arguably, the success of a piece of art might be measured by its ability to make people ask questions of themselves and the world around them. It exists to serve no purpose but its own existence – to be art. To challenge, or set people on a path of reflection.
Design, on the other hand, is intended to answer questions, beginning with “what is its purpose?” It does not challenge; it assists. It exists to solve problems. The problem could be anything from “how do I get more customers to notice my storefront?” to “how can we make the face of our watch easier to read?” or even “how can we make this safety belt more comfortable?”
Think of art you might see every day, street art, for example. Those huge, colorful murals one finds on city walls, designed to make passers-by think about the nature of society, or government, or themselves, even as they go about their daily commute.
This is art.
[caption id="attachment_4635" width="781"] Bohumil-Hrabal-Mural[/caption]
But what about the sign which tells them where the bathroom is, or the colorful poster informing them of an upcoming event, or the easily understood markings on the road which show the pedestrian crossing?
These involve shapes, and colors, and lines, but they are not forcing people to ask questions – they are answering them before they even arise. This is design.
Art Inspires, Design Motivates
Both art and design might be said to be about communication. Both aim to create a reaction. They even use some of the same methods in which to achieve these goals. The reactions, however, are where we can find another major difference: art, generally, aims to make those who view it have an emotional experience, to be inspired to think a certain way or to consider a certain topic.
[quote_colored name="" icon_quote="no"]The artist shares their emotions and views through choices of color, shape, and content. Design aims to motivate. To make the people who view it actually do something – also using color, shape, and content.[/quote_colored]
One of the most famous paintings in the world is the Persistence of Memory by Salvador Dali. It shows a surrealist scene of clocks melting in the foreground of an open landscape. It brings to mind thoughts of decay, of dreaming, of the chaotic nature of the universe, of whether we can ever correctly perceive our own reality; the clocks create strange shapes, lying next to a monstrous half-face, cast in shade, while a pale yellow horizon gives the scene depth by drawing the eye to the background and contrasting with the shadows.
[caption id="attachment_4622" width="500"] Persistence of Memory[/caption]
Similarly, one of the best design inventions in POST-IT notes
That particular shade of yellow, by the way, is one you may well see every day. It is the color of a post-it note.
Post-it notes have one of the most famous design stories out there: Dr. Spenser Silver, trying to create an extra-strong adhesive, accidentally made one so weak that it could be removed and reapplied over and over again. After some development, the post-it note was born.
The most common color is that light yellow, not chosen because the designer wanted us to consider eternity, but because it is eye catching and contrasts well with anything written on it in darker ink. Same color, same principle, same effect – and vastly different reactions.
Art is Interpreted, Design is Understood
“I don't understand it,” complains the disgruntled tourist in the gallery. “What's it supposed to be?”
“You're not supposed to understand it,” soothes the friend that dragged them here instead of the cheese festival, “that's the point.”
And, one might say, that really is one of the main points of art. All those questions it forces us to ask ourselves lead us to an interpretation. Yet no-one will have quite the same interpretation as anyone else; they will be affected by their own perceptions, history, and worldview. Again, this may well be the point, that each person will have a different answer to the question asked.
Design, on the other hand, seeks to provide a single answer. The same answer for everyone, and the more easily understood, the better. It would not do, after all, for every person who looks at a street sign to come up with their own personal interpretation of it. “Sorry, officer, it's just that orange is such an indecisive color, don't you agree, that I simply felt like the sign might also have meant that you didn't have to turn there, you know, that it was up to how you felt in the moment... you're fining me how much?”
And yet, design so often relies on artistic principles, and art can, in fact, seek to communicate a single message to everyone. Again and again, we see these factors overlap.
Take, for example, the art which represents a specific culture. Sometimes, it can be the only way a person from one culture can begin to understand another – and the fact that it results in this understanding means that it has, in fact, managed to convey a specific message.
We still cannot separate the two.
Art is a Talent, Design is a Skill
To be successful in either art or design involves talent and skill.
[quote_colored name="" icon_quote="no"]Talent is an innate ability; it cannot be taught. Skill, on the other hand, must be taught. The rules and practices that will be used in the creating process must be learned methodically.[/quote_colored]
But is it the same for each? If design is truly about using known reactions to create predictable results, then perhaps an innate talent is not all that necessary. You know that using a particular shape, color or texture will elicit a certain response, and you design accordingly. And whether you are designing shoes, kitchens, or car doors, you can learn what is required for each.
[caption id="attachment_5317" width="300"] What is art? Why is art important?[/caption]
An artist, on the other hand, can become an expert in every artistic skill there is, but still be unable to create a piece that truly effects those that see it. They might be able to perfectly recreate a still life, or draw a straight line without a ruler, or knead, sculpt and bake a clay figure without any assistance. Without talent, however, without the ability to make personal choices, is it really art?
Again, each of these arguments can be taken the other way. A designer may know all the rules of their trade, but will require the talent for true innovation. An artist may have the perfect image ever conceived tucked away in their head, but without the skills to put it on the page or canvas, that is where it will stay.
Art is Imagination. Design is Imagination+Intelligence
Sometimes, a piece of art and a designed work will share an aim. Not just something basic, like knowing that yellow draws the eye, but a deeper reaction than this.
We may say that art is more emotional than design. Yet design can also be based on emotional reactions; an excellent example is the seating plans at Planned Parenthood offices. Some sections of seating are placed close together for people sitting in intimate groups, others are more open, so people can speak to others they meet, and some sections have seats facing away from each other to allow isolation.
Emotional needs are being met through furniture, through design.
Art often seeks to elicit specific reactions as well, as the artist will know that certain images will often be met with certain responses. This is one of the places where the separation becomes the most difficult: each uses a knowledge of human behavior, and each uses this knowledge to meet its goals. In seeking a difference, perhaps we might look at how the knowledge is used.
Think of any of the famous pieces of art which feature death. The concept is an unpleasant one; the viewer experiences a jolt of sadness or fear. This is predictable, but the art itself is not. Then consider a famous poster brought out recently which featured the striking image of babies' cots laid out, interspersed with tiny coffins. Again, we experience a jolt. But this time, the reason is clear: the poster uses this image to remind viewers to practice good hygiene around infants, preventing the spread of disease.
Art is a Journey, Design is a Process
Perhaps, in the end, one of the few lines that can be drawn between art and design is that one has an ending, and the other does not.
Design is about meeting goals. There is a problem, and the solution must be developed. The idea for the solution will require creativity and imagination, but the goal itself with be reached through a disciplined process of rules, research, and the application of knowledge.
[caption id="attachment_4677" width="300"] What is Art[/caption]
[quote_colored name="" icon_quote="no"]Art begins in the mind of the artist.[/quote_colored] It may be planned, or it may be started from the faintest inkling of an idea with no guidance but a blank canvas. The artist may think that they have finished, then come back to the piece in a day, a week, or a month's time, and take it in an entirely new direction.
And even once they have declared themselves to be done, the journey continues with each person who experiences the art after this point. It never ends; it cannot have a goal because the goal would be forever moving.
With our world progressing as rapidly as it is, we find the lines that previous generations may have drawn between art and design becoming increasingly blurred. They share goals. They share methods. They share skills and knowledge.
And, as new innovations and discoveries are made in each, their overlaps allow a cross-pollination of sorts, with each being enriched by the other. Yet we cannot ignore what separates the two, as their very division allows us to understand each one with more depth.
[quote_colored name="" icon_quote="no"]Design reaches out to people; art draws them in. Art challenges; design assists.[/quote_colored]
Design solves problems, it belongs to the way the world needs to function. Art points out problems and invites people to consider ideas beyond reality. Design changes the world; art changes the people in it.
We will always find them hand in hand. Design shows you where to cross the road, and art makes you wonder why you were headed that way in the first place. Despite their differences, neither can be considered without the other; nor should they be.
Paintings are often referred to as windows into another dimension, defined by the purpose for which they were created and the skill of their makers’ hand. The artists of Indian royal courts in Rajasthan and the Punjab hills accessed divinity through their craft, providing objects for the personal devotion technique known as Bhakti.
The paintings created between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries in this area are characterized by their brilliant colors and vivid depictions of Hindu epic narratives, as well as magisterial courtly life. They illustrated gods and demons in spiritual battle, fantastical creatures of mysterious origin and great power. Using symbols that are central to Indian literature and worship, these craftsmen celebrated the diverse stylistic choices of their unique tradition.
[caption id="attachment_7258" width="800"] indian paintings and mythology[/caption]
Largely born from India’s ancient texts, poems, and songs, these mystical stories of good and evil were kept alive in the artwork housed within temples and other places of worship.
[quote_colored name="" icon_quote="no"]The remarkable evolution of style and treatment of materials can be seen in the medieval Hindu sculpture of cave reliefs and frescoes, which led to the handheld court paintings that occupied a space somewhere in between image and icon.[/quote_colored]
Careful details like a burnished gold leaf and crisp line quality were used to illuminate the mythological beginnings of these meaningful narratives, emphasizing their spiritual importance with a painstakingly intentional process.
Indian Paintings - Springs of Divinity
Like many of the artifacts that survive in present-day India, the tradition of making these court paintings originates in the leadership of Mughal emperor Akbar. A man of compelling historical importance, he reigned from 1556-1605 and commissioned a staggering number of artworks that help us to understand the culture of an empire that he worked tirelessly to establish.
The crumbling of the Mughal Empire in 1858 resulted in a period of unfortunate decline for the practice of Rajput court painting. However, in the glow of its cultural relevance, these works were highly respected for their intimate nature and poignant subject matter.
The private experience of holding a small tablet in one’s hands suggested that the image was made for that individual alone, providing a confidential opportunity to interact with who or what the painting depicted. They were meant to examine at close range, one at a time, like the pages of some mystical book holding the answers to spiritual enlightenment.
The images were painted with a kind of opaque watercolor, made up of vegetable and mineral pigments, delicately applied to several laminations of thin paper. The color was added with a small, soft brush over a carefully rendered sketch and a thin layer of ground. A whole series was then framed with similar materials so as to suggest a continuous narrative, which was inscribed on its border or attached flyleaf. The finishing touch was to burnish the frame with an agate or smooth stone, resulting in a smooth, polished edge that contained one scene of a longer story.
This method of production seems to have originated during the Mughal Empire, Indian Court Paintings and continued for centuries under various rulers after Akbar’s reign had ended. The stylistic amalgam that served as inspiration for Rajput court painting was developed slowly during the Mughal reign, beginning with one of Akbar’s first great projects in 1557. Throughout the following fifteen years, he commissioned the creation of 1,400 paintings illustrating the Hamzanama. This ancient and well-known Persian romance told the story of Hamza in fourteen separate volumes and helped the artists to hone their skills over the course of its completion.
A Gracious Mix of Talent and Skill
Two of the most exquisite panels that are typical of the series as a whole is titled, “Assad Ibn Kariba Launches a Night Attack on the Camp of Malik Iraj” and “Umar Walks Around the Fulad Castle, Meets a Foot Soldier, and Kicks Him to the Ground”.
[caption id="attachment_7257" width="300"] Assad Ibn Kariba Launches a Night Attack on the Camp of Malik Iraj[/caption]
The composition of both scenes, like most early Mughal paintings, are busy with the flattened silhouettes and patterned surfaces of Persian influence. Building upon these previous techniques, the Indian artists shaded many figures and objects, giving them a physicality that was not present before. Developments were also made upon the Hindu tradition of incorporating bright reds and yellows, as well as the heavy-limbed depiction of female characters.
Passionate Humanity is one core theme of many works
The final paintings of the Hamzanama show the further complexity of artistic technique in their utilization of facial expression, dynamic positioning of the body, and the suggestion of space in deep vistas surrounding living, breathing people. These later works are imbued with an emotional power and dynamism that emphasize the artists’ departure from a Persian style that was now stale and static in comparison.
Upon studying images such as “Umar Walks Around the Fulad Castle”, it is apparent that Akbar’s army of painters had learned to empathize with their subjects, projecting their own human feelings onto the faces of those they depicted.
[caption id="attachment_7255" width="504"] Umar Walks Around the Fulad Castle[/caption]
Akbar’s encouragement of direct emotional expression initiated what is now arguably the most distinctive characteristic of Indian court painting as a tradition. While it is rarely discussed, this quality is present in the vast majority of miniature paintings, whether they were made by the courts or not.
A prime example of this mature Akbari style of painting is the Metropolitan Museum’s “Hamid Bhakra is Punished by Akbar”, created in 1597. As a single chapter in the official history of his reign, the emperor is depicted riding a horse during the final moments of an imperial hunt that had taken place more than thirty years earlier.
[caption id="attachment_7256" width="496"] Indian-Paintings-Hamid-Bhakra-is-Punished-by-Akbar[/caption]
In the foreground of the picture, Hamid’s face is full of shame as he sits backward astride a donkey, his head shaven in penance.
Suffused with the powerful imagery of its mythological past, Indian painting expressed a new way of seeking the divine through personal devotion, or Bhakti.
The combination of painstaking technique and burning passion helped the emperor’s artists to grow in skill as well as purpose, providing their leaders with a more intimate method of spiritual practice.
Art has a habit of growing with necessity, and it was through this need for contact with a higher power that the Indian people were able to access their emotions on a more personal level than ever before. The passionate dedication to the origins of their culture is immortalized in the masterpieces that began with the reign of Akbar Mughal and will last for centuries to come.
All images used from Metropolitan Museum Kronos Collection