Henri Matisse has finished painting Young Sailor II in 1906. It is a portrait 40 inches tall and 32 inches wide, done in Matisse’s famous Fauves style. The subject of the portrait is a young man, wearing traditional fisherman’s clothes. The young man sits sideways on a chair against a pink background. In this painting, Matisse shows the natural beauty of the man through attention to the facial features and rounded shapes used for the arms and legs of the young man.
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The painting is done if the Fauves style, with simple shapes and bright colors, is used to represent the subject of the portrait. The young man is wearing a navy blue cap, a pullover of the same color, a white undershirt, with a blue-and-pink striped shirt. On his lower body, the man is wearing baggy green pants, green-and-white socks with a checkered pattern, and pink lace-up shoes with rubber soles. The background is a flat pink color with no definition, and only some portions of the chair are visible to the viewer. The composition is static, as the man poses on the chair.
The most detail is put into the face of the young man, which immediately draws attention to itself. The face consists of round features, with extra detail given to define the forehead, cheeks bones, and the chin. The man has a slightly interesting impression on his face, with the right brow being raised higher than the left one. His head is resting in this palm as he sits on the chair in a relaxed, but playful pose. To bring more attention to the face of the man, Matisse adds additional details to the palm that the man uses to rest. The pastel colors of the face and palm contrast with the deep blue of the man’s fishing clothes, make it stand out even more. However, the most detailed area of his face is the mouth. With three distinct colors used to represent his mustache, lips, and chin. His face is inviting and friendly.
The proportions of the man are slightly exaggerated, which is common for Matisse. The eyes of the man are large and expressive, his arms and legs are bulky and shaped with ovals, his hands are loosely defined with elongated shapes and spots of paint used to represent his fingernails. The perspective of the chair is off and is hard to understand how the man is sitting on it in this pose. The back of the chair seems not to be connected to the chair itself. The lighting is mostly flat, but clothes have some shading to indicate depth and their loose fit. The man has a clear outline to separate himself from the flat, pink background. Although this might be perceived as a flaw, this lack of definition is representative of the art style and helps the viewer focus on the most important parts of the painting.
The brush strokes are visible and flowing. Their shape helps accentuate the rounded edges of the joints and body. Matisse uses them to hint at the musculature of the man. The clothing is baggy, but the legs are bent at the knee. This allows Matisse to show that the man is in good shape, by directing the brushstrokes along with the muscles.
The overall mood of the painting is slightly romantic, but at the same time relaxed and warm. The bright colors and rounded shapes are calming to the viewer. The relaxed and playful pose of the sailor is slightly suggestive and hint at his possible romantic interest. His face is well-defined and could be seen as the main element of the portrait. It has a friendly and interesting expression, which supports the theory of romantic intent.
Henri Matisse’s Young Sailor II is very representative of his style. Looking at the painting the viewer can gain an impression of a young working man, relaxing after a long day of fishing. His beauty is inviting and evokes warm feelings, despite the simple presentation.
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