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Painting Modern Life

Explore how early modern artists forged new directions in painting.


Meet the “wild beasts” of the early-20th-century art world.

Landscape at Collioure

Henri Matisse
(French, 1869–1954)

1905. Oil on canvas, 15 1/4 x 18 3/8" (38.8 x 46.6 cm)

In Landscape at Collioure, Henri Matisse applied oil paint to an unprimed canvas, mostly with quick, sketchy brushstrokes and sometimes using paint directly from the tube. Though he left parts of the canvas unpainted, so that its raw, woven surface shows through between his brushstrokes, this painting is considered a finished work.

Landscape at Collioure reflects the point at which Matisse began to use a more instinctive, spontaneous way of painting, unparalleled among his contemporaries. The landscapes he painted in the summer of 1905 were “wilder, more reckless than any subsequently produced in his career,” according to Matisse scholar and former MoMA curator John Elderfield. “In the works of that period color speaks for itself with a directness previously unknown in Western painting, and speaks directly too of the emotional response to the natural world that required changing the color of this world the better to render that emotion.”1

John Elderfield in Museum of Modern Art. Major Work by Matisse, Gift of Mrs. Bertram Smith, on View at the Museum of Modern Art. New York: MoMA, 10 Aug. 1990. Print. Available online:

A paint in which pigment is suspended in oil, which dries on exposure to air.

To prepare a surface for painting by covering it with primer, or an undercoat.

A work of art made from paint applied to canvas, wood, paper, or another support (noun).

A closely woven, sturdy cloth of hemp, cotton, linen, or a similar fiber, frequently stretched over a frame and used as a surface for painting.

A combination of pigment, binder, and solvent (noun); the act of producing a picture using paint (verb, gerund).

The natural landforms of a region; also, an image that has natural scenery as its primary focus.

The perceived hue of an object, produced by the manner in which it reflects or emits light into the eye. Also, a substance, such as a dye, pigment, or paint, that imparts a hue.