The Pink Tablecloth (c.1924–1925)
by Henri Matisse (1869–1954)
Medium: oil on canvas
Dimensions: H 60.3 x W 81 cm
Henri Matisse often painted traditional subject matter, and this still life is no exception – however, his innovation was to paint them in new and experimental ways. This still life is abstracted (we can very easily recognise the objects as taken from real life, however their forms have been simplified to such an extent that we no longer find them believable or realistic). In simplifying shapes and removing the illusion of three-dimensional space, the artist emphasises his use of colour as a decorative tool, and as an expression of mood. Rather than disguise his brushwork, Matisse has announced his mark-making and revealed the process of painting and his feelings through colour and shape.
Spatially, there is a degree of conflict here as some objects follow the rules of perspective (e.g. the ellipsis on the fruit bowl), while others appear two-dimensional because they are not modelled in three-dimensional space. Do any of the objects cast a shadow? The tabletop is slightly angled to indicate recession, but what is the actual effect?