The Red Onions (1906) by Henri Matisse

The Red Onions - Henri Matisse - 1906

Artwork Information

TitleThe Red Onions
ArtistHenri Matisse
Dimensions46 x 55 cm
Art MovementExpressionism
Current LocationNational Gallery of Denmark (Statens Museum for Kunst), Copenhagen, Denmark

About The Red Onions

“The Red Onions” is a still life artwork created by Henri Matisse in 1906, reflecting the Expressionist art movement. The painting is of modest size, measuring 46 by 55 centimeters. Presently, it is housed in the National Gallery of Denmark (Statens Museum for Kunst) in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The artwork is a composition that showcases a table upon which rests a collection of objects. The titular red onions take a prominent position at the forefront, characterized by a bold, ripe coloration that conveys their fleshy texture. Accompanying the onions are a strikingly patterned jug and a smaller, detailed cup, both of which exhibit ornamental motifs. The jug, in particular, draws attention with its decorative swirls and symbols that contrast against the simpler shapes and colors of other elements.

Behind the set of onions and ceramics, one can observe green onion leaves pointing upwards, introducing a sense of verticality and freshness to the scene. Matisse uses a palette primarily consisting of primary and secondary colors, distinguished by their vibrancy and the thick, visible brushwork. This approach aligns with the Expressionist tendency to emphasize emotional content over realistic representation.

The background is divided into separate color fields: a serene blue serves as the backdrop, segmented by a tabletop that transitions from a beige tone indicating the horizontal surface to a dark green suggesting a frontal plane or a drop cloth. The combination of bright colors, bold outlines, and flattened perspective are characteristic of Matisse’s style during this period, focusing more on the interplay of color and form than on three-dimensional depth. The overall effect of the artwork is dynamic yet harmonious, presenting everyday objects within an expressive and color-rich tableau that encapsulates the artist’s innovative spirit.

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