The Views from Matisse's Windows The menagerie of emotions that Henri Matisse evoked in his paintings spanned from enchanted enthusiasm to somber contemplation. In his paintings, Open Window and French Window, the artist depicted two vastly different views from possibly the same window, each nearly opposite in value, yet both impetuous in color. Various research studies have explored the psychology of color and have found that humans do relate color with emotion instinctively. One such study found that light, "warm", colors encourage positive emotion, while darker, "cool", colors spur negative emotion in most people. The bevy of warm colors in Open Window arouse elated emotion, while the cool colors in French Window innerve an icy feeling of solitude because the relationship between color and emotion is psychologically significant in the human process.
Henri Matisse was the leader of the Fauvist movement of early Modernist art, a method that used true, brilliant color in often distorted brush strokes on canvas. The artists involved were titled the Faves, French for wild beasts, because of their untamed and avant-garde approach to painting. They evaded detail and used the placement of color to create movement. Matisse's new approach shook the art world and heavily influenced future artists, as he has been referred to as the "Master of Color." In Matisse's work, entitled Open Window, his oil sodden brush strokes illuminate the canvas with images of sailboats on a blush sea in the background and pots of crimson blooms in the foreground. The piece is drenched with life.
His colors, vibrant and unnatural, range from cobalt to alabaster. A periwinkle, rose and ivory sky lingers above bobbing boats of coral masts, and hulls of azure and ebony. Greens flecked with varying amounts of yellow create hues of olive and amber in the foliage draping the windowsill. Indigo and terracotta pots hold bright scarlet and jade flora near the viewer. The window's open doors reflect the image ahead; it's glass panes mirroring the misty rose-colored water.
The turquoise and lilac walls inside reveal that the window is in the corner of the room. A palette of colors full of vigor drenches the painting. Blues, greens and reds are the predominant colors in Open Window, and the 1996 research of Michael Hemphill will conclude that this is why one feels a surge of pleasure and vivacity while viewing this work. Of the 40 men and women in his color-emotion study, more than half cited blue as their favorite color. Their responses to bright colors were overwhelmingly positive compared to those of dark colors. Blue drew out the most positive responses; green and red followed closely behind.
The color blue is usually associated with being calm and serene. Green is evocative of thoughts of nature and red was thought of as strong, positive and warm. Serenity, nature and warmth are descriptions of life. It is natural to feel revived when viewing these colors, especially in such a pleasing arrangement. Matisse's French Window illustrates a dark, foreboding image of a window, evidently in the opaque night. Indistinguishably a window, the viewer sees only four rectangular shapes.
Unless the title of the work is revealed beforehand, the image barely epitomizes a window. The value in this piece is muted and the tenebrous selections of colors are close in tone; black, teal, gray and smoky-blue are in their dimmest state. Gloom and seclusion soak the sentiment of this canvas. While looking out the window, there is nothing to see but an obsidian void. The viewer feels alone, as there are no other forms of life to connect to. In any situation where loneliness is prevalent, introspection virtually always consumes.
The minimal array of dark colors in French Window could elicit despondent emotions in viewers. In Hemphill's study, most of the participants' responses to dark colors were negative. In fact, gray was the most negatively appraised color, even in comparison to black. The participants related gray with sadness, boredom and malaise. Black is commonly associated with death and the unknown.
The domination of black and the strong presence of gray in French Window naturally expose the human emotion to melancholy reclusiveness. Psychological association of color and emotion is influential in the study of art appreciation. Henri Matisse has created a new view of the world through his paintings Open Window and French Window. By not only using unconventional methods of his time, but also being capricious in his own collection, he introduced varying emotions to his admirers. Matisse expressed passion in his works, ranging from celebratory liveliness to bleak introspection. As the artist, himself, said it best, "What I am after, above all, is expression.".