Henri Matisse, the Back Iv of the Back Series

Henri Matisse, the Back Iv of the Back Series

The Back IV by Henri Matisse Henri Matisse was a French artist born December 31st 1869. He is known for his use of colour. He was a draughtsman, printmaker, and sculptor, but is known primarily as a painter. He painted during the period of expressionism and was considered a fauve. Matisse was also an accomplished sculptor whose radical style left  lasting mark on modern art history. Although he pursued sculpture since his early years as an independent form of expression, he frequently used it to find a solution to pictorial problems.

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If Matisse’s paintings, known for their strong color, tend to be elegantly composed, the sculptures are often about stresses and struggles. This Sculpture is a bas-relief bronze sculpture. A bas-relief A French term that means “low-raised work. ” This art, combined with “high relief” is known as relief sculpture. Relief is a sculptural technique. The term relief is from the Latin verb levo, which means to raise. A Relief sculpture gives impression that the sculpted material has been raised above the background plane It is meant to be viewed from one direction as opposed to sculpture meant to be viewed in the round.

The material used was bronze- a metal alloy consisting primarily of copper, usually with tin as the main additive. It is hard and brittle. Bronze reliefs are made by casting which involves pouring liquid metal into a mold, which contains a hollow cavity of the desired shape, and then allowing it to cool and solidify. The solidified part is also known as a casting, which is ejected out of the mold to complete the process Henri Matisse saw that relief sculpture was an ideal stepping stone between three-dimensionality and the flat representation of the body that he used in his painting. I sculpted as a painter,” said Matisse, “I did not sculpt like a sculptor. ” In relief sculpture, he could deal with the mass of the body and form of the body in real space, and at the same time helpclarify his sense of how to represent the human form in his paintings. The woman in this relief sculpture helped bridge the gap of Matisse’s two dimensional paintings and three dimensional sculptures. Matisse developed these sculptures as well as worked on paintings in which a human figure was the central feature.

He described his excursions into sculpture as “nourishing” to his art as a whole, and in his work you can see where these experiments into relief and his paintings overlap. The Sculpture itself was made in 1930. It was a part of a series of four sculptures made by Matisse entitled The Back I, II, III and, IV. They are considered among his most significant sculptures. The first one was created in 1909 and the last in 1930. The Back I was influenced by Rodin as can be seen in the more naturalistic style and freely expressive modeling. The fourth was the final version completed after an interval of 20 years.

It was radically simplified and stylized. The figure took on an organic and abstract power. The back IV was influenced by African art which used techniques of simplification to create sculptures that were emotionally powerful without necessarily being anatomically accurate. The limbs have become ridged trunks, virtually unrecognizable tubular forms. The bisecting tail of hair has taken on more elements of architecture than descriptive function. The sense of the living models ample proportions and ripple of flesh and muscle somehow survived the reductive process as Matisse reached the rather brutal form of his maturity.

Matisse kept a plaster version of Back (IV) in his studio for the rest of his life. He died in 1954. The use of modeled relief with such sculptural power was unique to modern art. It is a tribute to Matisse’s senses of sculptural volume that he could produce, in shallow relief such, strong formal tensions. Although his sculpture was never as influential as his paintings it was a good effort. It was wise of Matisse to choose shallow relief, even on this large scale, since it was uniquely suited toward his inclinations to paint, enabling him to achieve a work of great originality and sculptural feeling.

Matisse never saw The Backs (I-IV) cast in bronze. They were cast by his heirs after his death. The original plaster casts and molds for most of Matisse’s sculptures were destroyed by his heirs in the 1990s to prevent the production of further editions. This work as appeared in the second PostImpressionist show in London, and the Armory Show in New York City. It has also appeared in the Smithsonian and Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington DC and currently resides in the Museum of Modern Art in New York.


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