Henri Matisse II / by Yu Cao


"What I am after, above all, is expression. The purpose of a painter must not be conceived as separate from his pictorial means, and these pictorial means must be the more complete the deeper is his thought. I am unable to distinguish between the feeling I have for life and my way of expressing it." pp.30

"Expression to m way of thinking does not consist of the passion mired upon a human face or betrayed by a violent gesture. The whole arrangement of my picture is expressive. The place occupied by figures or objects, the empty space around them, the proportions, everything plays a part. Composition is the art of arranging in a decorative manner the various elements at the painter's disposal for the expression of his feelings. In a picture every part will be visible and will play the role conferred upon it, be it principal or secondary. All that is not useful in the picture is detrimental. A work of art must be harmonious in its entirety; for superfluous details would, in the mind of the beholder, encroach upon the essential elements. "

"Composition, the aim of which is expression, alters itself according to the surface to be covered. a drawing must have a power of expansion which can bring to life the space which surrounds it. An artist who wants to transpose a composition onto a larger canvas must conceive it over again in order to preserve its expression; he must alter its character and not just fill in the squares into which he has divided his canvas." ppp.30 Composition is for expression. Paper is a field, drawing occupies and inhabits it. Line is like wall, when wall can bring to life the space that surrounds it, architecture is there, life is there. Scale is essential, different sizes of paper require different composition of the drawing; different sizes of the field, require different volume of the building to effect expression. Expression, composition, scale

"I want to reach that state of condensation of sensations which constitutes a picture. ... I prefer to continue working on it so that later I may recognize it as a work of my mind. Nowadays I try to put serenity into my pictures and work at them until I feel that I have succeeded. ... I try to condense the meaning of this body by drawing its essential lines. I will be merely one element in the general conception of the figure. The colors will probably grow heavier-- the freshness of the original tones will give way to greater solidity, an improvement to my mind, but less seductive to the eye. ... I prefer by insisting upon its essentials, to discover its more enduring character and content, even at the risk of sacrificing some of its pleasing qualities." "it is yet possible to search for a truer, more essential character which the artist will seize so that he may give to reality a more lasting interpretation."

"There are two ways of expressing things; one is to show them crudely, the other is to evoke them artistically. In abandoning the literal representation of movement it is possible to reach towards a higher ideal of beauty. Look at an Egyptian statue: it looks rigid to us; however, we feel in it the image of a body capable of movement and which despite its stiffness is animated." pp.32 Expression-- a character of duration-- "a feeling of duration".

"The relation between tones must be so established that they will sustain one another. The chief aim of color should be to serve expression as well as possible.I will only be inspired by the sensation that the season gives me"

*** "A work of art must carry in itself its complete significance and impose it upon the beholder even before he can identify the subject matter. When I see the Giotto frescoes at Padua I do not trouble to recognize which scene of the life of Christ I have before debut I perceive instantly the sentiment which radiates from it and which is instinct in the composition in every line and color. The title will only serve to confirm my impression. What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter."

"One can judge of the vitality and power of an artist when after having received impressions from nature he is able to organize his sensations to return in the same mood on different days, voluntarily to continue receiving these impressions; this power proves he is sufficiently master of himself to subject himself to discipline."

"The simplest means are those which enable an artist to express himself best. His expression must derive inevitably from his temperament. He must sincerely believe that he has only painted what he has seen. When he uses his reason his picture is an artifice."pp.35

"The role of the artist, like that of the scholar, consists in penetrating truths as well known to him as to him as to others but which will take on for him a new aspect and so enable him to master them in their deepest significance."

"Rules have no existence outside of individuals: otherwise Racine would be no greater genius than a good professor. Any of us can repeat a fine sentence but few can also penetrate the meaning." pp.36

____Notes of a  painter by matisse, 1908

Organizing sensations to put ourselves in a situation/ mood where we're receiving impression from nature is essential. A mental limbering up sets the tone for the day, the incubator for what to come. Deep breath, clean all over, crisp apples, water, where the mind is itself, complete, comfortable, fresh in solitary and serenity, in fullness of emptiness. 

Expression of deep enduring consolidated sensations is all the necessary.