HENRI Émile Benoît Matisse was born in 1869 and is one of the leading figures of modern art. Importantly for today’s interiors, he is widely regarded as one of the most significant colourists of all time.
He is renowned as the leader of the short-lived, but influential French Fauvism movement, which broke with both traditional painting and Impressionist methods focusing instead on painting qualities (such as strong, obvious brush strokes) and bold colours.
Bright and simple designs with bold emblems, beloved of modern retailers such as Ikea, owe a great deal to Matisse who recognised the value of decoration in modern art. He felt it unimportant for the viewer to understand the trials and tribulations of the artistic process.
Matisse used pure colours and white space to create light-filled atmospheres – a technique widely adopted in all areas of modern art – and featured contrasting areas of pure colour to add volume and structure to his pictures, rather than shading.
Equally importantly, he pioneered simple, but beautifully effective line representations of subjects. This type of decoration is one now widely favoured in poster art and especially in works by the likes of Julian Opie (who designed the dramatically simplistic band portraits for Best of Blur album cover). It is also fundamental to the Miffy illustrations by Dick Bruna.
Anyone who has been tempted by the glorious melange of colour, coupled with simplistic stripes, on Paul Smith’s signature interiors products is also seeing the direct influence of Matisse. Paul Smith considers him to be the “Boss of Colour” even 60 years after his death.
When ill health prevented Matisse from painting, he began to cut into painted paper with scissors to make maquettes for commissions, from books and stained-glass window designs to tapestries and ceramics. In the cut- outs series, outlines took on sculptural form. Using bright, simple blocks of colour Matisse was still able to evoke the shimmering surface of water and the lushness of vegetation.
This method of creating designs using simple representations on a contrasting plain background is now a staple of the modern interiors world. The Scion range of fabrics and wallpapers by Harlequin (especially the trademark Mr Fox) offers another wonderful example of this influence.
If you are visiting France this summer you could head for the Chapel of the Rosary in Vence, his crowning achievement. It is a beautiful space for which Matisse created all the wall decorations, Stations of the Cross, furniture, stained- glass windows and even the vestments and altarcloths; the beauty and simplicity of which are testament to his creative genius.
■ Henri Matisse: The Cut- Outs runs at the Tate Modern gallery in London until September 7. For tickets visit www.tate.org.uk/visit/tate- modern or call 020 7887 8888.
■ Jamie Hempsall is a multi-award winning interior designer consultancy. www. jamiehempsall.com.