This is the fabulous HARMONY IN RED by Henri Matisse. It is a painting from the French FAUVIST art movement, co-founded by Matisse, 1905-10.
The FAUVES used colour in a way that had never before been seen in Western art.
‘I finally came to consider colours as forces, to be assembled as inspiration dictates.’ Matisse
However this wonderful, glorious, spirited HARMONY IN RED was originally painted in BLUE.
Matisse considered this painting a ‘decorative panel’. It was commissioned for the dining room of a Moscow mansion owned by the wealthy Russian industrialist and passionate art collector, Sergei Shchukin. And it was to be blue, the colour best suited to Shchukin’s dining room.
However, shortly before the painting was to be exhibited, Matisse painted it over in red as he considered it ‘not decorative enough’ in blue. Traces of blue can still be seen around the edges.
Sergei Shchukin, a great fan of the modern French painting of the time, bought his first Monet on a trip to Paris in 1897. From that moment on Shchukin became an avid collector of French art – mainly Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and Fauvist.
Shchukin bought a total of 258 paintings to decorate the walls of his palatial home in Moscow. By 1914, Shchukin owned:
5 works by Matisse
13 works by Monet
3 works by Renoir
8 works by Cézanne
4 works by Van Gogh
16 works by Gauguin
7 works by Rousseau
16 works by Derain
50 works by Picasso
What a guy! What a visionary!
Following the 1917 Revolution the Soviet government appropriated his collection, while Shchukin managed to escape to Paris, where he was to die in 1936.
In 1918 the Shchukin Palace became the State Museum of New Western Art.
In 1948 the State Museum of New Western Art was closed down by a decree signed by Stalin due to ‘its allegedly bourgeois, cosmopolitan and wrongly oriented artworks’. The collection was arbitrarily divided between the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in Moscow and the State Hermitage in St Petersburg.
In its home in St Petersburg, the Russians have given the painting the title RED ROOM. The word for Red in Russian is almost exactly the same as the word for Beautiful. Hence Red Square is actually Beautiful Square. Many Russian homes have a Red Corner, or Beautiful Corner, where they display their Icons.
Here are some other absolutely scrumptious FAUVIST works to get your colour spirits soaring:
Aren’t the FAUVES just delicious!
All images are Wikipedia Commons