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Purple Robe by Henri Matisse

Purple Robe by Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse was born in France in 1869. His mother bought him his first box of paints, and he soon discovered his love of art. Henri was heavily influenced by simplistic forms of African sculptures and masks and the decorative patterns found in Japanese prints. Matisse was also part of the Fauve movement. Fauve means wild beasts and got its name from the very bold colors used by this group of artists. The purple robe was completed in 1937. It depicts Matisse's assistant. This painting is an example of Henri Matisse's mature decorative style. Matisse depicts his model in an exotic Moroccan costume, surrounded by a complex of abstract design and exotic color. This is an example of one of the final groups of oil paintings in Matisse's career.

Questions to Ask

What is the first thing that you see? This is the focal point. The focal point is what first draws your eye, something that stands out. Hint — The flowers, particularly the white flowers are the focal point.

List the colors you see in this painting. How many are there? Are they repeated? Hint — Matisse has used a basic secondary color scheme in this painting. The vibrant colors are quieted by the use of black, grey and white.

What is a pattern? Hint — A repetition of line, color, and shape to create a type of texture is a pattern. How many different patterns to you see? Look closely to notice all the patterns are a variation of the vertical stripe. By changing the stripe, through color and line, Matisse has added interest to the work and repeated a theme through repetition.

Why do you think Matisse called this painting the Purple Robe? Why not call it the white flowers or striped walls?

Do you think he knew this lady? Could it have been a sister, aunt, or friend?

Why do you think he chose to flatten everything out in this painting? Hint — He was a type of rebel and enjoyed going against the rules. The flatness of the painting seems to agree with the wild choice of colors. It serves to upset the balance.

Do you think the wild colors would be as effective without the flatness or use of perspective? Since the woman appears to be so flat in the painting she almost looks like she is standing up. The table is at a definite slant and the floor goes up hill. Matisse knew how to use perspective because of his formal training as an artist.

Activities for the Classroom

Additional Kid Friendly Resources at the AHML are "Henri Matisse: drawing with scissors" by Jane O'Connor, and "Henri Matisse" by Mike Venezia.

Ask the students to look at their own clothing. How many students have some variation of the vertical stripe in their clothing? Draw a plain vertical stripe on the board. Invite the students to the board to change the stripe in anyway while keeping its vertical direction. Invite a new set of students to add some horizontal direction to the vertical. The new addition must be a variation on the stripe. After discussing the results of the exercise, provide paper and crayons and ask the students to all create their own drawings based on the print and its use of pattern and stripes.

Bring in a robe, some old wall paper books, etc. to create your own living art scene within the classroom. Compare what you have created with the painting, ask the students to draw a picture of the living art scene.

Bring in a template of a shirt and have the students act as fashion designers. Ask them to decorate the shirt with patterns like they have seen in the print.

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