the joy of living (matisse) technical sheet

These artists were concentrated around the figure of Henri Matisse, a young painter who had been trained in various academies, some on the fringes of official art. Among the postulates that were set was the establishment of a decorative art whose main communication factor should be the use of color in a provocative way, the use of the pure resources of painting without the mediation of the academic principles of composition and seek new ways of figurative representation. After their first exhibition in Paris in 1905 an art critic called them fauves, that is to say “savages” and since then their movement began to be called fauvism.

The composition presents a fairly traditional scheme with a triangle that dominates it and several planes that generate the three-dimensionality that is necessary to represent a space that is both closed and that escapes towards the background, although there is no perspective. The center of the composition is generated by the group of dancers in the rear plane, thus breaking the traditional element of centralized composition that is framed in the foreground. The two women reclining further forward close the first circle that precedes the center of the dancers. In this way Matisse achieves the paradoxical effect of centralization and at the same time dispersion.


The Joy of Living is a work created between 1905 and 1906 by Henri Matisse, and is located in the Barnes Foundation, Merion (United States). The Joy of Life belongs to the historical Avant-garde, specifically Fauvism.

Henri Matisse was the main promoter of Fauvism, his biography does not follow the pattern of an avant-garde painter: he was not a precocious artist, he studied law in Paris, he always led an orderly life, and he was not a regular in bohemian environments. In his painting, Matisse maintained what for him were two essential principles that lasted from the beginning of his career until the end: a painting must have its own autonomy, be independent of reality, and color must be applied and combined according to certain decorative and emotional resonances.    His work shows an evolution: in 1904, his works showed the influence of Neo-Impressionism, with thick brushstrokes; in La joie du vivre, Matisse abandons the technique of dots to represent again a group of nudes on a landscape, this time with colored stains. The figures are enclosed in a thick black line, trying to match the colored spots of the landscape. The result is a canvas of enormous lyricism and novelty, which Matisse himself considered the beginning of his career as an independent painter. From this work on, his painting evolved towards very intense colors distributed in flat masses, influenced by Gauguin.


The motif or theme of the painting is the myth of Arcadia, an imaginary and happy region in which shepherds were dedicated, as seen in the canvas, to play the flute, talk, dance, and fall in love. All the figures are naked, some in a sensual way, on a meadow, surrounded by leafy trees and ending in a navy blue background that creates the effect of space.

A triangular composition can be seen in the center of the painting. Within this sinuous triangle, the center is occupied by the dancers (a theme that Matisse would take up again) and the base by the reclining women. But if these figures are centered, others are dispersed.

On our left side predominate the warm and primary colors red and yellow and the secondary warm orange; while on our right side predominate cold colors such as violet and especially green.    This color arrangement creates the effect of depth in this area or leads our gaze from left to right. In a rhythm of visual harmony and tranquility.

the women of algiers picasso

Such a theme, the joy of living, deserves hundreds of beautiful paintings in the history of art. And many are the artists who have expressed joy and happiness with their simple, everyday scenes. Others do it with portraits of people who feel that way, happy, which is transmitted to the viewer producing a pleasant connection with the work. And painting, especially, has that ability to paralyze a beautiful feeling, making it almost eternal.

Joy has been very well portrayed by many pictorial styles throughout history. Painters such as Renoir, Monet and Matisse stand out as the most famous. Paintings where light and color signify life and joy.

In a general way, as art is a human expression, artistic works function as a thermometer that takes the temperature of human well-being and happiness of an era. Baroque works, full of fear, loneliness and pain that were reflected in an excessively religious Middle Ages, are not the same as the times where human beings have gained in human rights and freedom, such as the early twentieth century, to take a couple of examples.