Visual Comparison Between Matisse’s Vie of Collioure and Picasso’s Factories at Horta de Ebro Essay
My first impression of this pair of paintings is that Matisse’s View of Collioure is more pleasant, lighthearted and naturalistic visually, while Picasso’s Factories at Horta de Ebro is more heavy, rigid and unnatulistic. I’d say View of Collioure is like a classic plein air oil painting done in a different way. The colors are not realistic at all. They are much more vibrant and warm —- the mountain in the background is straightforwardly pink with some strange green patches, the foreground is red, the walls of the houses are of various red and pink, the roofs are golden and red-orange, and the sea is too blue.
It was painted very loosely. The brush strokes are evident and scattered. They were applied spontaneously and freely, almost like a crayon drawing. The artist didn’t care to cover the whole surface of the canvas. Strokes, lines, and blocks of colors are often not adjacent right to each other, and the canvas shows through. However, the perspective is correct and creates a realistic depth of space. We can see very well that first there is the red foreground, then houses and wharves by the shore, then mountains across the water recede into the background.
Matisse also put a short fat blue line in the upper right corner aside the distant mountain to indicate horizon line. Despite the strong and nonrepresentational colors, the rough brush strokes, the lack of details and light and shadow, the viewer can still get a pretty good sense that this image is about a real place. Maybe this painting was even done on site. I can imagine fishermen—or whoever—- living in the houses depicted in the painting. The bright warm colors make the image pleasant and inviting. It is a place you’d like to visit. On the contrary, Factories at Horta de Ebro is not inviting at all.
First of all, the buildings are reduced to basic geometric shapes. Some parts seem three dimensional yet perspectively wrong. The far end of the roof of the building to the left is wider than the near end, and looks like it is pulled up by some mysterious force. The chimney in the middle looks like it is leaning toward the viewer. The area in the middle of the buildings seems to be three-dimensional and two-dimensional at the same time. The rendered perspective alienated the viewer. It doesn’t feel like this place is accessible, tangible, or friendly nor real.
I think it is possible that in this piece of work, Picasso critiques or responds to what was happening in his time, that is to say the growing of industries and popularization of the use of machines. It may also relate to urbanization and the experience of living in the city. See the tall urban buildings under the gloomy sky in the background on the far left of the image. Or, they may be another cluster of industrial buildings. The palette is restricted in Factories at Horta de Ebro. It was painted largely in gray. The factory buildings are gray, and the sky behind them are gray too.
The yellow used in this painting is not a happy yellow. The yellow looks rather rusty and depressing. Over all, compared to the brilliant and lively colors Matisse used to depict the naturalistic scene of a lovely coastal town, Picasso used dull and unpleasant colors to portray industrial buildings in a modern setting. Compositional wise, these two paintings are also very different. In View of Collioure, the objects in the scene are arranged horizontally and bleed out of the margins. It gives us a feeling that this space is open, and we can roam freely in this world even out of the picture frames to places not shown in the image.
But, in Factories at Horta de Ebro, the main objects, the cluster of buildings, are in the middle of the picture, without touching or extending out of the margins. The buildings look alone, compressed, and trapped. The distorted perspectives also make them alienated and uncomfortable. Although there are some buildings in the background and the foreground, they still feel isolated because of the spaces left between the objects and the edges of the picture. Also, there are no windows in any of these building, except a black door. It brings up a catastrophic feeling to the viewer.
Moreover, because the buildings are centered, made out with planes, and below eye level, it feels as if they are models or miniature buildings. It feels like you are staring into a snow-globe, a man-made world you can never enter. Forms are simplified in both paintings. In View of Collioure, forms are concisely captured by lines and patches of colors, likewise in Factories at Horta de Ebro. But, in View of Collioure, the outlines are thicker, juicier, more colorful, expressive, and humane. And, brush strokes are more evident and liberal. While in Factories at Horta de Ebro, the thin outlines lack colors or emotions.
They are sharp, precise, and mechanical. Although there are gradiations in the planes, brush strokes are not obvious. The walls of the buildings look smooth and reflexive, almost like metal. The settings of these two paintings are different, and the artists deployed different techniques and visual languages to deal with the subjects. Fauvism is an appropriate modern approach to portray a timeless naturalistic, harmonious scene of the co-existence of human civilization and the nature. While Cubism can expresses well the cold and inhumane side of modern society after industrialization.