An the use of colour.Henri Matisse, as well as

An interesting quote I once found is “Colour is a wonderfully evocative design tool, with the right palette packing an emotional punch as well as packing aesthetic appeal” In this essay I will discuss just how Matisse has done this himself during his ‘second life’ period, focusing mainly on his cutout artwork, and how he has influenced design for an entire generation, fighting back the boring standard with his own colourful emotional punch. Colour is used across many areas that include graphic design, fashion, products and many more, so how did Henri Matisse play a part in the way we use one of the most basic yet influential elements of design that we use today?  With reference to Paul Rand’s “The Politics of Design”: The real world in which a designer works is not always the same as the world of art, but the world of advertising, production and consumerism, communications with an explicit purpose, but ultimately; for sales. All the same, a designer’s ultimate passion is art; art in the service of marketing. Contrary to Matisse’s work, design is a problem-solving activity. It’s purposeful, it provides a means of simplifying the way that we communicate. It amplifies everything within this design world, from a picture, any form of a word, and many products. But most importantly, design gives colour to our world, and Matisse has influenced this world in ways of how we present it, the styles intertwined into the way that we communicate with design, all through the use of colour.Henri Matisse, as well as Pablo Picasso, is widely regarded as the greatest colourist of the twentieth century, seeking to use colour as the foundation of his form of expressing this creative passion. His artwork was a very fresh approach for his time, venturing away from the traditional form of painting. This passion for his influential use of colour lead to him becoming the leader of the French movement Fauvism, Fauvism being an early twentieth-century art movement that both himself and André Derain founded. As a result of them favouring vibrant colours and being partial to a curving flow of brush strokes across their canvas Fauve artist were titled ‘wild beasts’. However, due to his ill health in his old age during the 1940s, Matisse converted from painting canvas’s to creating cut-outs, yet continuing his pursuit of expressing colour. “The culmination of Matisse’s long career, the cutouts reflect both a deep engagement with form and colour and an inventiveness freshly directed at the status of the work of art,” explains MOMA’s press release, who exhibited nearly 100 colourful scissor-and-paper cutouts by Henri Matisse.So how has Matisse influenced the design that we use today? One of Matisse’s major contributions to modern art was departing from the traditional. His innovative goal of separating colour from its descriptive purpose and allowing it to exist on the canvas as a self-reliant detail. His signature technique was using vibrant colours consisting of a jubilant palette combined with his abstract use of shape, which resulted in colour having the power to project a mood and establish an arrangement of and relations within the work of art without having to be realistic to the natural world. Colour has always been held meaning throughout history, blue being particularly influential, due to it’s expensive yet striking ultramarine pigment, in the 13th-century ultramarine was been extracted from the semi-precious stone lapis lazuli, an obviously costly pigment to use, and due to this, the colour blue has been historically associated with wealth. But Matisse, being the Fauve that he is, helped bring something more than just status to colour, injecting emotions into the vibrant pigments that he used. In this modernist moment, blue was never viewed in quite the same way. Matisse’s use of undiluted colours on white canvas creates a radiant ambience to his Fauve style paintings, as seen in this particular piece which I would like to focus on from MOMA’S collection, The Parakeet and the Mermaid, 1952, gouache on paper, cut and pasted, and charcoal on-site paper. This piece is an excellent example of the bold use of colour Matisse was so fond of using, quite literally “cutting into colour”. Matisse contrasted areas to show volume and structure to his pictures using pure original colour, instead of his usual use of shade and sculpture. Because of these aesthetically pleasing elements, he is commonly considered as a painter devoted to pleasure and contentment. “Colours have their own distinctive beauty that you have to preserve, just as in music you try to preserve sounds. It is a question of organisation, of finding the arrangement that will keep the beauty and freshness of colour” – A quote from Henri Matisse himself displaying how deep his passionate roots for colour goes, and his ambition to arrange the colours to their most aesthetic capacity, and with this not only keeping the “beauty and freshness of colour” but also creating a formula of tones and vibrancies of colour to make the onlooker feel whatever he wants, and thus not only manipulating colour, but manipulating the onlooker to feel and thing something, much like many designers in the design world. However, I disagree with this as in some cases his use of colour is often deliberately disorientating and unsettling due to their clashing and jarring effects, such as his piece Ivy in Flower, 1953, with its bright oranges clashing violently with the dark blues and the deep reds in opposition alongside the dark greens, it is an almost vicious incongruity of angry colours combined amidst lost looking calming colours, contradicting the aesthetically pleasing effects he is known for achieving.Matisse utilises colour in more of a creative way than capturing what the eye can see, he lets it sit on a canvas and be its own element, and this style is reflected in the design we use today. But how? One example of this is seen by looking at the work created by Sunny Todd Prints. Royal College of Art graduate Sunny Todd established ‘Sunny Todd Prints’ with his wife Emma in 2013; they work from their studio in Ledbury to produce their own handcrafted patterns used for interiors, fashion and products. With his bold use of colour and shape, a palette consisting of vibrant and joyful colour schemes, similarly inspired by that of Matisse, it is described as “Unashamedly bold and playful, radiating optimism and carefree energy” by The World of Interiors. Like Matisse, Sunny layers his colourful shapes to create depth and structure to his work, contrasting colours and a careful use of white space to create his own form of shading and volume to the designs. His work does differ by way of technique, as Although Sunny uses screen print to create his designs, his working process is very similar to that of Matisse; he uses collage in way of planning his designs, experimenting with scale, reducing and exaggerating each element to perfect the impact of the repeat, and uses screen print to execute them. Similarly to Matisse, computers are not used at any stage throughout the process to produce these clean-cut designs, each element of the designs are cut by hand. Although the colour and abstract shapes used in Sunny’s work are strikingly similar to Matisse’s, the intention and the creative process of Sunny’s designs have caused them to differ to that of Matisse. In this modern society, Matisse’s style doesn’t quite make the ‘cut’ in this high demand for design and the reproduction of products. As a result of this, Sunny’s repeated designs have more purpose than Matisse’s decorative work, and so the use of shape has been influenced, causing one shape being identical to the next in an easy and effective way to mass-produce designs. With the screen printing process making them continual, an endless flow of printed fabrics, it is a print designed to be reproduced in a repetitive pattern with the intent to be “refreshingly dynamic and full of movement” to flow across furnishings, fashion items and many other fabric products, contrasting to Matisse’s artwork, which is more irregular, each element singularly cut out by hand and no piece looking the same, with the design set to be presented in a frame of some shape and kind, either it be a window frame or a picture frame.So, although Matisse’s use of colour and shape has clearly influenced key aspects of Sunny’s design, the use of them in modern designs have clearly evolved away from Matisse’s style. As a result of this, the individuality of work found in Matisse’s designs is almost lost in Sunny’s work, although the work is individual to Sunny himself the work is mass produced, contrary to Matisse’s one-time pieces.  However, this unique way of working gives the prints they produce their own irregularities, albeit, in a different form to Matisse’s differentiating in shape, these have their own variation in colour density and texture, resulting in them being refreshingly dynamic and individual.As we know Matisse was one of the leading Modernists, famous for his vibrant use of colours and simple abstract forms. Matisse believed that an artist and his passions must be lead by instinct and intuition, and so heralded in a new approach to art. Although he began his most famous craft, collage and cut out, later in life than most artists, Matisse continued to create his designs well into his late 80s. This leads me to my next item of interest, the cover of the book ‘Thoughts on design’ designed and written by Paul Rand. Paul Rand was an iconic designer at the time of the 50’s/60’s genre, who many would also consider revolutionary. He was responsible for designing many logo’s that we see today, such as the International Business Machines (IBM) logo (of which there are many variations, but one became very iconic in the modernism world), the American Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) logo, and the United Parcel Service (UPS), for which he was known to have some humour about. Another logo he had designed was the Yale University Press logo, probably due to his time teaching at the well-established university, proving his knowledge and experience in the practice of design, showing to be true what an established and archetypal designer he is.Interestingly, the cover of the book ‘Thoughts on Design’ has also got visual aspects of abstract design within its pattern. Although his colours may not be considered as varied as Matisse’s usual colour palette, they could still be considered vibrant, and his use of abstract shape to create an overall image is consistent with that of Matisse’s work. Paul Rand has the same simplistic use of shape as Matisse does in his designs, not over complicating the image and keeping the elegance of the design. The colour palette has also been utilised to express emotion, Paul Rand using a variety of blues giving off a masculine power driven vibe, suitable for him and his line of work, although this also differs from Matisse who was less centred around such things, but the shades of blues give the depth and volume that Matisse achieved by contrasting areas to show volume and structure to his pictures using pure original colour.The oval shapes along the long sticks give a clear image of a modernist designer’s abstract impression of an abacus. This is interesting, as an abacus is a calculator, this could indicate towards Paul Rand’s calculating approach to design, and he was known for saying- “Design is the method of putting form and function together”, contrasting to Matisse’s carefree approach to his own artwork, as mentioned previously in the essay; Matisse’s work had no soul purpose but to be of aesthetic appeal, and a means for the artist and the onlooker to express their own emotion. Yet, similarly to Matisse, the composition and the complimentary colours combined with its simplistic style within this particular pattern of Paul Rand’s demonstrates how, at the same time, he appreciates the elegant aesthetics of design. But, as he said in this very book, “The Beautiful and the Useful”, so despite this the ‘beauty’ of the design he has created is still ‘useful’, as it has the function of being a book cover, communicating something to someone.Paul Rand was an iconic designer at the time of the 50’s/60’s genre, who many would also consider revolutionary. He was responsible for designing many logo’s that we see today, such as the International Business Machines (IBM) logo (of which there are many variations, but one became very iconic in the modernism world), the American Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) logo, and the United Parcel Service (UPS), for which he was known to have some humour about. Another logo he had designed was the Yale University Press logo, probably due to his time teaching at the well-established university, proving his knowledge and experience in the practice of design, showing to be true what an established and archetypal designer he is. To conclude, colour has been separated from its purpose of being realistic and descriptive, and is now a self-reliant element on the canvas; so in summary, rather than being of any purpose colour is it an element in its own right. This is interesting to reflect on, as Matisse’s artwork was more of an emotional outlet of colour rather than to have any function or purpose, contrary to most modern designers who had to design with a purpose to be of use or interest in the modern and competitive world of design. So how has Matisse, and by extension colour, impacted the way we design today? Well by definition Graphic design is to communicate, and this is exactly what Matisse has done utilising his own artwork to communicate his emotion through the use of colour and form. And so, you could say that Matisse has heavily inspired modern designers. But none the less, design and artwork has had to evolve to have a function or a purpose. The design world is not is not always the same as the world of art: Design does not have the luxury to sit contently in their picture frames but have to be utilised to some form of purpose, in saying this it becomes evident that design does contrast from the visual arts, and by extension Matisse. All the same, a designer’s ultimate passion is art, even if it is the art of marketing and advertising, and most importantly, design gives colour to our world, and Matisse has influenced this world in ways of how we present it, the styles intertwined into the way that we communicate with design, all through the use of colour. So, although Matisse has clearly inspired the modern world of design, in terms of colour usage and the freedom of form, his overall presentation of his work is not enough in present-day perspective.