The Open Window
Henry Mattise’s painting, The Open Window, brings out two different emotions in me when I look at it. On the one hand, the colors and softness of the flowers and ocean scene seem to be happy and relaxing. I feel like I’m being called out to experience the world beyond the window, and it’s a beautiful world. On the other hand, the darkness around the upper windows and left wall along with the feeling of a small space as I stand in the imaginary room looking out the window stirs up a feeling of being boxed in. Of wanting to get out. This seems appropriate considering that Mattise painted this work during a time of change. He was coming out of his “dark period” in 1905 when this was painted and had also been influenced by Paul Signet and his work with the pointillist technique. Mattise loved color and was part of a group of artist that had begun challenging the traditional style of painting. This change started with the Impressionists, continued with the Pointillists and now moved to Mattise and the Fauvisms. These artists were part of movement that challenged the way people saw things and attempted to change the accepted ways of thinking that had remained for centuries. This can also be seen in the Antarchist movement that artists such as Signet were involved in, to the hints of change in the social systems because of vast differences between the aristocrats and the paupers, and in the break between France and the Catholic church in 1905 when they officially seaparated the two by law. The early 1900s saw many changes but these were a few that may have influenced Mattise in his quest to push the envelope in his works.
Not only did the changing times and the changing work of artists such as Signet influence Mattise, but the post-impressionists such as Cezanne and Van Gogh did as well. His travels in the early 1900’s also affected his art and the use of color that he used. A trip to the southern coast of France is the setting for this particular work and it resembles Signet’s work The Port of Saint-Tropez. When showing this work for the HVS I would suggest showing it with this piece as well as another piece by a contemporary such as Maurice de Vlaminck’s work The River Seine at Chatou because it seems to resemble this The Open Window in style and color.