When it just has to be Red …

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.

HARMONY IN RED - RED ROOM, Matisse, 1908, oil on canvas, 5’11’’ x 7’3’’ - 1.8 x 2.2m Hermitage, St Petersburg
HARMONY IN RED – RED ROOM, Matisse (1869-1954), 1908, oil on canvas,
5’11’’ x 7’3’’ – 1.8 x 2.2m
Hermitage, St Petersburg

 

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

SHCHUKIN PALACE, MOSCOW, INTERIOR
SHCHUKIN PALACE, MOSCOW, INTERIOR

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:

WOMAN WITH A HAT Matisse, 1905, oil on canvas, 2’8’’ x 2’1½’’ – 81 x 65cm, San Francisco, Museum of Modern Art
WOMAN WITH A HAT
Matisse, (1869-1954), 1905, oil on canvas, 2’8’’ x 2’1½’’ – 81 x 65cm, San Francisco, Museum of Modern Art

 

PORTRAIT OF MADAME MATISSE : THE GREEN STRIPE Matisse, 1906, oil on canvas, 1’4’’ x 1’½’’ - 40 x 32cm, Statens Museum for Kunst Copenhagen, Denmark
PORTRAIT OF MADAME MATISSE : THE GREEN STRIPE
Matisse (1869-1954), 1906, oil on canvas, 1’4’’ x 1’½’’ – 40 x 32cm, Statens Museum for Kunst Copenhagen, Denmark
PORTRAIT OF MATISSE André Derain (1880-1954), 1905, oil on canvas, 1’6’’ x 1’1’’ - 46 x 34cm, Tate
PORTRAIT OF MATISSE
André Derain (1880-1954), 1905, oil on canvas, 1’6’’ x 1’1’’ – 46 x 34cm, Tate Collection

Aren’t the FAUVES just delicious!

 

All images are Wikipedia Commons

6 Comments

  1. Totally delicious! I can almost imagine the painting done in blue but it would’ve been so different. That red is so energetic whereas the scene is so tranquil and quiet, so maybe it’s that balance of opposites that makes it work. I wonder why Shchukin was so into colour – any pics of what he wore?

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  2. Difficult to think of it as being blue – it would be a lot chillier but you’ll probably tell me there are warm blues – which I’m sure there are thinking about it!

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  3. I know. I tried to create a blue version of the painting, but my techno knowledge was not up to it … It would have been so different in blue. Shchukin was amazing wasn’t he! I’ll look into images of him. I wonder if he ever met Le Corbusier in Paris?

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