Saturday, May 29, 2010

Matisse and Black

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Chicago Art Institute. Two times! There is a special exhibit focusing on a pivotal period of Matisse's long career(1913-1917). The exhibit will be on display until June 20, 2010.

I was not very informed on Matisse's work or influences. The exhibit provided fascinating insights to both well-known and obscure art as well as his contribution to his countrymen during this unstable period of history.

My first trip to the exhibit left me inspired by this quote displayed by his painting "Gourds":
"[Matisse] began to use pure black as a color of light and not as a color of darkness."
As a watercolorist, I was taught to avoid using pure black because of its tendency to deaden a painting. In recent years, acrylic has been my primary medium and I still tend to avoid using black. But the paintings in this area of the exhibit and taking in this quote became an "AHA!" moment for me.

"Gourds" wasn't as interesting to me as "Apples". It's hard to explain my fascination with this painting. It looks so simple, but it holds my attention. I had to go back and study it again on my trip last weekend.

The color scheme of my last post, a journal spread for the GPP Street Team Crusade, was influenced by this painting. I love being inspired by the masters.


Janvangogh said...

Do you avoid using "black" at all, or just premixed black? I started mixing pthalo blue and raw umber a few years ago for black.

Regina said...

With watercolors, no tube black... unless my painting style is more toward illustration. Then I'll use black ink or sharpie to outline.
I do mix pigments (Alizarin crimson & phthalo green, etc) to get black-like darks which can be very beautiful. The paint has to be built up in layers.
As for acrylics, I do use the tube black. But my tendency has been to avoid using it because of my watercolor experience. I like the way you use it over the colored background. It has so much life.
I've learned that just a touch of black mixed into an acrylic color can result in very rich shades that I can't make in my usual method of adding a color's complement.

Robert Innes said...

I came across your blog by chance (it is 2 after mine, Robert Innes, Painting Life) and found your Matisse post. I was drawing yesterday with a great artist, John C Brown. Later we were discussing art and Matisse cropped up and he pointed out that M uses black as a colour but I was feeling locked out of M's paintings. Overnight I realised all you need to do to get into a painting is to approach it and open the door. My being blocked out had been because I was holding onto too much baggage to get through the door. Today in idle curiosity I click next blog a couple of times and find a luminous black Matisse with a thoughtful and sensitive commentary. I like days like yesterday and today.