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Primitive Art... By Henri Matisse "The Wild Beast"

Updated: Jun 13, 2023

"Primitivism included techniques, motifs, and styles copied from the art of Asian, African, and Australasian people."

"Philosophers questioned the mental and moral strictures of Christianity."

"Primitive non-Europeans were more attuned to Nature's inspirations than civilized man."


Primitivism is nostalgia and recreation for a superior ideal morality and ethics of a primitive society in primitive times. primitivism included techniques, motifs, and styles copied from the art of Asian, African, and Australasian people perceived as primitive in relation to the urban civilization.


Furthermore, Primitivism includes Naïve art and folk art produced by amateur artists. a primitive artist would represent the myth of a golden age of pre-societal harmony with Nature. Notable examples of primitivism are the music of Igor Stravinsky, the Tahitian paintings of Paul Gauguin, and the African period artworks of Pablo Picasso. Primitivism is a utopian style of art that represents humanity's original state of nature.


During the Age of Enlightenment, as part of the Quarrel of the Ancients and the Moderns debate, the European Renaissance humanists studied the culture inherited from classical Greek and Roman antiquity.


In contrast to the medieval scholastic emphasis on Christian theology and unchanging monarchy, Renaissance humanists launched a movement to recover, interpret, and assimilate the literature and arts of ancient Greece and Rome. The three-hundred-year Age of Discovery (15th c.–17th c.) exposed western European explorers to the peoples and cultures of Asia, the Americas, Africa, and Australasia.


The explorers’ encounters with the non-European Other provoked philosophers to question the Mediaeval assumptions about the fixed nature Man, and Nature, and doubted the social-class organization of society and the mental and moral strictures of Christianity.


By comparing the civilization of Europe against the way of life of the uncivilized natural man living in harmony with Nature, it was suggested that primitive non-Europeans were more attuned to Nature's aesthetic inspirations than civilized, modern man. This primitivism rebirth evoked a reaction from those who perceived it as a movement against Christian civilization.


In November 1910, Roger Fry organized an exhibition held at the Grafton Galleries in London. Paul Cézanne, Paul Gauguin, Henri Matisse, Édouard Manet, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent Van Gogh, among others, participated to showcase primitivism in modern art, it was the first "debut" of primitivism on the London art scene.




Matisse's monumental Le Bonheur de Vivre (The Joy of Life) 1906
Matisse's monumental Le Bonheur de Vivre (The Joy of Life) 1906

The Case Of Fauvism

"The paintings of the Fauves utilized pure color and unconstrained brushwork, and a high degree of abstraction."

"Professor Gustave Moreau was the movement's inspirational teacher at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris."


Fauves were among the first avant-garde artists to represent primitivism inspired by African, Oceanic art, and folk art. Fauvism is the style of les Fauves ("the wild beasts"), The leaders of the movement were André Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck, and Henri Matisse.


The paintings of the Fauves were characterized by the utilization of pure color and unconstrained brushwork, while their subject matter had a high degree of simplification and abstraction. Fauvism can be classified as an extreme development of Van Gogh's Post-Impressionism.


The symbolist painter and professor Gustave Moreau was the movement's inspirational teacher at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Gustave Moreau taught Matisse, Marquet, Manguin, Rouault, and Camoin during the 1890s, and was viewed by critics as the group's philosophical leader. Moreau's affirmation of the expressive potency of pure color was inspirational for his students, soon This source of inspiration was taken away with Moreau's death in 1898.


Gustave Moreau did not set the wild beasts on the right roads, but, off the roads. Henri Matisse and his fellows exhibited the new primitive collection at the Salon d'Automne of 1905, The group gained their name after the critic Louis Vauxcelles described their show of work with the phrase "Donatello chez les fauves" "Donatello among the wild beasts". In 1906 the Salon des Indépendants announced that all Fauves would exhibit together.


Matisse's monumental Le Bonheur de Vivre (The Joy of Life), the painting's flatness, bright light, vibrant colors, eclectic style, and mixed technique had remarkably impacted critics. Fauvism as a style began around 1904 and continued beyond 1910.





The Primitive Art By Henri Matisse

"Matisse as a leader of the Fauves."

"Matisse was inspired by Georges Seurat's Divisionism."

"Numerous artworks by Matisse were seized by the Nazis."



Throughout the opening decades of the twentieth century, Henri Matisse was one of the primitivism art style forerunners, Matisse carried a significant role in the development of painting and sculpture towards more simplified and spontaneous techniques. Henri Émile Benoît Matisse (31 December 1869 – 3 November 1954) was a French visual artist, The intense colorism of his paintings between 1900 and 1905 represented Matisse as a leader of the Fauves.


In 1889, during a period of convalescence following an attack of appendicitis his mother brought him art supplies, Matisse discovered his passion to create art, so he decided to dedicate his life to art. In 1891, Matisse started his study of art at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts under Gustave Moreau. Inspired by Impressionism and Van Gogh's Post-impressionism Matisse's style changed completely. Matisse abandoned his earth-colored palette for more vivid colors.


Many of Matisse's paintings from 1898 to 1901 were inspired by Georges Seurat's Divisionism "chromoluminarism", Divisionism is a characteristic style in which paint is applied in separated individual color patches which interacted optically. the viewer combines the colors optically, the artist's physical mixing of pigments is not achieved.


Divisionists believed they were achieving the maximum strong color palette scientifically possible. Matisse's Inspiration from his professor at the École des Beaux-Arts Gustave Moreau (1826–1898) pushed Henri to think outside of the lines of formality and to follow his visions. Matisse's Fauvism exhibition at the Salon d'Automne in 1905 garnered attention and harsh criticism.


Matisse showed Open Window and Woman with the Hat at the Salon. The primitive paintings were wild, vivid bold colored, without regard for the subject's natural colors. Around April 1906, Matisse met Pablo Picasso, one key difference between them is that Matisse painted from nature, while Picasso was more inclined to work from imagination. in 1906, Henri Matisse traveled to Algeria and Morocco to study Islamic art, African art, and Primitivism, he also went to Spain to study Moorish art.


From 1907 until 1911, Henri Matisse started to instruct young artists at the Académie Matisse in Paris. Henri continued to absorb new influences, however, the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany branded primitive art including Henri Matisse's fauvism as degenerate art, Matisse was visiting Paris when the Nazis invaded France in June 1940, but, managed to make his way back to Nice.


While the Nazis occupied France from 1940 to 1944. Degenerate works had been purged from all French museums and galleries, and French artists exhibiting in France had to sign an oath assuring their "Aryan" status including Matisse. Numerous artworks by Matisse were seized by the Nazis or looted from Jewish collectors.


Diagnosed with abdominal cancer in 1941, Matisse finished his last painting in 1951 and his final sculpture the year before, Matisse underwent surgery that left The wild beast inside him reliant on a wheelchair. Painting and sculpture had become physical challenges, he turned to cut-paper collages or decoupage.


Matisse died on 3 November 1954. buried in the Cimiez neighborhood of Nice. Whether you refer to Matisse as a wild beast or a degenerate artist, Henri Matisse was a person who dedicated his whole life to his art.


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