Artwork Detail

Nature morte aux oranges (II) (Still Life with Oranges [II])
c. 1899
French, 1869–1954
Oil on canvas
18 1/16 x 21 7/8 "
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Sydney M. Shoenberg, Jr., 1962
WU 4044
© Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Seen as one of the great modern artists along with Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse painted Nature morte aux oranges (II) during an early experimental stage in his career. With a relatively simple color scheme and quick, visible brushwork, Matisse's vibrant image shows a bowl of oranges, the outline of a coffee cup, and a translucent green pitcher on a sketchy blue tabletop. Bare canvas is particularly visible beneath the table; whether Matisse considered the painting finished or not is unknown. The vivid orange and yellow hues on the back wall, echoing the colors of the fruit, give the effect of an intensely sunlit room, but the curtain and outdoor view through the window in the upper right are vague, almost abstract forms. Matisse's handling anticipates his later emphasis on flat, decorative colors and forms while also pointing toward modernist experimentations with its unfinished quality, loose brushwork, and flattened, abstracted imagery. The painting seems to be a study in the use of tertiary and complementary colors to create a sense of form and space rather than using imitative colors or an illusionistic perspective to mimetically represent an actual scene. The exceptionally energetic colors also anticipate Matisse's Fauvist period, in which unnatural colors were used to add a level of emotional intensity to his paintings. [Permanent collection label, 2011. Revised 2023]