Woman with a Hat

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Woman with a Hat
ArtistHenri Matisse
Year1905
MediumOil on canvas
MovementFauvism
Dimensions80.65 cm × 59.69 cm (31+34 in × 23+12 in)
LocationSan Francisco Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco

Woman with a Hat (French: La femme au chapeau) is a painting by Henri Matisse. An oil on canvas, it depicts Matisse's wife, Amelie Matisse.[1] It was painted in 1905 and exhibited at the Salon d'Automne during the autumn of the same year, along with works by André Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck and several other artists later known as "Fauves".[2]

Critic Louis Vauxcelles, in comparing the paintings of Matisse and his associates with a Renaissance-type sculpture displayed along side them, used the phrase "Donatello chez les fauves..."[3] (Donatello among the wild beasts).[4] This passionate language demonstrated the controversy and shock that this new style, referred to as Fauvism, caused. Woman with a Hat was at the center of this controversy, marking a stylistic shift in the work of Matisse from the Divisionist brushstrokes of his earlier work to a more expressive style. Its loose brushwork and "unfinished" quality shocked viewers as much as its vivid, non-naturalistic colors.Critic Louis Vauxcelles, in comparing the paintings of Matisse and his associates with a Renaissance-type sculpture displayed along side them, used the phrase "Donatello chez les fauves..."[5] (Donatello among the wild beasts).[6] This passionate language demonstrated the controversy and shock that this new style, referred to as Fauvism, caused. Woman with a Hat was at the center of this controversy, marking a stylistic shift in the work of Matisse from the Divisionist brushstrokes of his earlier work to a more expressive style. Its loose brushwork and "unfinished" quality shocked viewers as much as its vivid, non-naturalistic colors.[7]

Description[edit]

This painting portrays Amelie Matisse in a seated half-length position. The size, format, pose, and costume suggest a society portrait but distinctly depart from earlier painting styles.[8] In the work, bold, unnatural colors and swirling brushstrokes make up the woman's face.[9]: 53  Matisse's use of vibrant color to represent shadow, lightness, and dark is evident in the green line separating the face.[10] These brushstrokes and colors define the piece, directing the viewer's attention to the intricate details crafted through loose and seemingly careless brushstrokes. Both the gloved hand and ornate fan stand out as abstract and unnatural elements. Additionally, the imaginative hat marks a complete departure from painting as a reflection of the visual world.[9]: 52  Finally, the background of the painting appears largely ambiguous, making it difficult to determine the position of the chair or the setting in which this painting was completed.[8]

Rise of Fauvism[edit]

Henri Matisse, 1918 Self-Portrait. Oil on canvas.

Matisse surprised Paris Society with the debut of this portrait at the 1905 Salon d'Automne. He began painting the piece in September and completed it before the salon in October. It was created as part of a larger collection he worked on in the South of France from May to September of 1905. During this time, André Derain, a fellow painter integral to the Fauvist movement, joined him at his home in Collioure. The two aimed to "envisage color as a 'material' that could be manipulated like marble or wood". This goal inspired the Woman with a Hat, departing from previous painting techniques and demonstrating a shift in the French art world known as Fauvism.

In the painting itself, Matisse began with a roughly sketched outline, filling the work with contrasting strokes of color rather than defined shapes. This style represents a distinct change from his earlier Neo-Impressionist paintings. For the first time, Matisse departed from a single technique. Instead, he adopted a multi-technique style, which, according to the scholar John Elderfield, demonstrates "how he was questioning the foundations of Impressionism from which he had emerged". Thus, Fauvism was born from the techniques used in Woman with A Hat.

Scandal[edit]

However, these techniques were not immediately met with praise. Of all the entries to the salon, Woman with the Hat drew the largest audience, though most of the attention was not positive. According to John Klein, the "bright palette and loose, seemingly haphazard application"[11] drew the most unfavorable attention. The piece was quickly deemed infantile, dismissed as madness by audience members and the media alike.[12]: 56 

Fauvism elicited this response for many of its early viewers. However, Matisse and others continued in this new technique, exhibiting all together for the first time at the Salon des Indépendants in 1906. The centerpiece of this exhibit was another work by Matisse, Le Bonheur de Vivre (The Joy of Life), demonstrating his central role in the beginning of this movement.[13]

Ownership[edit]

Gertrude and Leo Stein bought the controversial Woman with a Hat for 500 francs[14], boosting Matisse's moral after the initial harsh criticism of his work.[15] The Stein's were two Americans, who brought their modern views of painting to the French salon, countering the French conservative taste. This made them one of the few admirers of Matisse's new work.[16]: 55 

During the 1950s, in San Francisco, it was bought by the Haas family. In 1990 Elise S. Haas bequeathed thirty-seven paintings, sculptures and works on paper to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, among them Woman with a Hat.[17] Today, the painting remains at this museum.

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ Leymarie, Jean; Read, Herbert; Lieberman, William S. (1966), Henri Matisse, UCLA Art Council, p.11.
  2. ^ Henri Matisse, Femme au chapeau (Woman with a Hat), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
  3. ^ Vauxcelles, Louis. [1], Gil Blas, Supplément à Gil Blas du 17 octobre 1905, p.8, col.1, Salle VII (end). Retrieved from France Gallica, bibliothèque numérique (digital library), Bibliothèque Nationale, 01 December 2013.
  4. ^ Chilver, Ian (Ed.). "Fauvism", The Oxford Dictionary of Art, Oxford University Press, 2004. Retrieved from enotes.com, 26 December 2007.
  5. ^ Vauxcelles, Louis. [2], Gil Blas, Supplément à Gil Blas du 17 octobre 1905, p.8, col.1, Salle VII (end). Retrieved from France Gallica, bibliothèque numérique (digital library), Bibliothèque Nationale, 01 December 2013.
  6. ^ Chilver, Ian (Ed.). "Fauvism", The Oxford Dictionary of Art, Oxford University Press, 2004. Retrieved from enotes.com, 26 December 2007.
  7. ^ Henri Matisse, Femme au chapeau (Woman with a Hat), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
  8. ^ a b Klein, John (2001). Matisse Portraits. New Haven: Yale University Press. pp. Chapter 3.
  9. ^ a b Brown, Kathryn (2024). Critical Lives: Henri Matisse. London: London: Reaktion Books.
  10. ^ Garb, Tamar (2007). The Painted Face: Portraits of Women in France, 1814-1914. New Haven: Yale University Press. pp. Chapter 6.
  11. ^ Klein, John (2001). Matisse Portraits. New Haven: Yale University Press. pp. Chapter 3.
  12. ^ Brown, Kathryn (2024). Critical Lives: Henri Matisse. London: London: Reaktion Books.
  13. ^ Russell T. Clement, Les Fauves: A Sourcebook, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1994 Archived 2022-12-30 at the Wayback Machine ISBN 0-313-28333-8
  14. ^ Stein, Gertrude. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, Chapter 3.
  15. ^ Chilver, Ian (Ed.). "Fauvism", The Oxford Dictionary of Art, Oxford University Press, 2004. Retrieved from enotes.com, 26 December 2007.
  16. ^ Brown, Kathryn (2024). Critical Lives: Henri Matisse. London: London: Reaktion Books.
  17. ^ Henri Matisse, Femme au chapeau (Woman with a Hat), San Francisco Museum of Modern Art