Henri Matisse – Interior with a Young Girl (Girl Reading)

13 Aug

“Colour is a power which directly influences the soul. Colour is the keyboard, the eyes are the hammers, the soul is the piano with many strings. The artist is the hand which plays, touching one key or another, to cause vibrations in the soul.”

(Wassily Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art)

Henri Matisse, Interior with a Young Girl (Girl Reading), 1904–05

Matisse’s girl in the painting is a quiet little girl, completely absorbed in the book that she is reading. She is seated at the table, perhaps in the dining room. We are somewhat able to decipher the space around her. A bowl of fruits at the table alongside a jug of water. Clearly it wasn’t Matisse’s intention to portray this interior scene in a realistic manner. So what was his intention; playing with colour and appealing to our senses? Perhaps. Matisse is not one of my favourite painters, but when I need my dose of colours and vibrancy I go to Fauvists and their leader Matisse just as the junkie goes to his dealer at the streetcorner. Colour truly has power to uplift us; just look at all the gorgeous, vibrant shades of yellow, red, turquoise, pink, blue and green. So much life and vivacity going on in a single canvas! It’s so childlike and unpretentious. The girl in the painting is Matisse’s ten year old daughter Marguerite who was the daughter of Matisse’s model Caroline Joblaud. Portrait of a girl reading brings to mind the many portraits of children by Renoir who was Matisse’s friend and an artist he looked up to. But in Matisse’s painting the little girl isn’t just a pretty girl in a cozy bourgeoius interior, no, it seems that the colourful patchwork interior composed of contrasting and complementing pathes of colour is actually the interior of Marguerite’s playful, imaginative mind. I imagine that, as she is reading the book, the world around her is transformed accordingly and all the magic of the words and scenes described therein suddently come to life because Marguerite has the power of imagination; she has the power to transcend the ugliness of reality, its dullness and lifelessness, and paint it in all the colours her heart desires, to make it whimsical. And clearly Matisse nurtured his inner child throughout his life, for even his collage cut-outs which he was making in his old days are totally child-like and playful. Matisse transformed the ordinary into extraordinary in this painting. A simple interior scene which might have been boring if painted realistically in shades of brown and beige, is a landscape of vivacity. The space in the painting appears flat but highly decorative and buzzing with excitement. The energy of the painting, and we cannot deny that paintings have energies that directly speak to us, is that of a child’s laughter and play, bright pink ice cream melting in a summer’s day, jumping on trampoline, ribbons, bonbons and candy-floss, the world of fairy tales and make-believe. I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I gaze at this painting, I feel rejuvenated. This just might be one of my favourites by Matisse.

6 Responses to “Henri Matisse – Interior with a Young Girl (Girl Reading)”

  1. Upside-down Land 13th Aug 2021 at 2:34 pm #

    My two favorite painters are Georges Braque and Henri Matisse. The French cultivated artists in the early 20th century. Kandinsky is high on my list as well. I enjoyed your writing, though I do hope you grow out of Renoir.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Byron's Muse 14th Aug 2021 at 1:41 pm #

      I never heard someone likes Braque, interesting! What do you like about his art? They seem so drab to me. I love Kandinsky and I am reading his book on the spiritual in art at the moment, I love that he has a whole philosophy behind his art.


      • Lautreamont 26th Aug 2021 at 7:33 pm #

        Ha ha! Doncha just hate it when people tell you that you should do this or you should do that! Having said that,after reading your comments on Braque I think you should get employment as one of those art museum guides,who wanders around with the groups of tourists explaining all the pictures to them.When you get to the Cubist galleries in front of the Braque’s and Picasso’s look at the tourists de haut en bas,and say “I can’t believe you people actually like this rubbish- I wouldn’t pick it up if I saw it in a skip”


        • Byron's Muse 27th Aug 2021 at 12:48 pm #

          Hahaha that does sounds like something I’d say! Yeah when someone tells me what to do, I immediately get the urge to do the opposite.


  2. marinaelphick 13th Aug 2021 at 3:56 pm #

    Gorgeous painting by Matisse wonderfully observed 😊thanks for showing me a Matisse I didn’t know.

    Liked by 1 person

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