Henri Matisse’s Seated Riffian (Le Rifain Assis) is a painting completed in 1912 during the height of political upheaval in Tangier, Morocco. The painting portrays a young man from the Rif mountains of Northern Morocco, wearing traditional yellow turban and shoes and a colorful coat, staring intently at the viewer. The background features yellow curtains with vertical green stripes and a vibrant pink-red floor.
What makes this painting significant is that it was created by Matisse, a French artist, who was producing artwork during France’s colonization of Morocco. Through his work, Matisse sheds light on cultural imperialism while still appreciating the beauty and uniqueness of Moroccan culture.
Seated Riffian currently resides in the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, PA as part of their permanent collection. This artwork showcases Matisse’s mastery of color and emphasizes how he successfully integrates his style with traditional Moroccan attire to create an authentic portrait. It serves as an essential cultural reminder that celebrates individuality while depicting firsthand reactions to colonialism from art enthusiasts such as Henri Matisse himself.