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Henri Matisse is referred to as one of the most outstanding artists of the twentieth century. The artist contributed largely to the development and treatment of contemporary art. Therefore, it is not strange that many art critics treat him as an opponent to Pablo Picasso due to the importance of his innovations. The painter is considered as the prominent representative of the French movement Fauvism. The paper will deal with the analyses of Matisse’s “One Thousand and One Nights” and “Icarus” that is part of the exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. In my opinion, these two artworks represent the ideas of the painter concerning the color, composition, and decorations in the best way.

One Thousand and One Nights

“One Thousand and One Nights” is considered one of the most famous and popular pieces created by Matisse during the last few years. The painter relates his artwork to the prominent collection of Middle Eastern folk tales. A fictional Scheherazade tells each evening one fairytale not to be murdered by of cruel Persian king. The cutout technique itself builds upon the artist’s career-long preoccupation with color. Matisse felt that he was almost cutting into the color itself while creating these pictures. Moreover, Matisse considered it as rather a sculpture.

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“The Thousand and One Nights” is composed of five major panels. Thus, the first panel is a lantern with smoke that seeps out of the spout. It is believed to express dusk. The second panel is considered as a precursor of sorts to Matisse’s cutout of stark “Blue Nudes”.

It is necessary to point out that the letter resembles Scheherazade herself. Stars may suggest nighttime or midnight. There is also the second lantern that is black and without smoke. This black lantern refers to the dawn, which is approaching very soon. Matisse asserts that his aim as an artist is concerned with uncovering and recording with balance and purity the essential character of things beneath their external appearance. “The Thousand and One Nights” is a vivid example of this technique.


Icarus was the main character of an outstanding Greek myth, which European painters used to take as a subject. The myth goes that a young man Icarus had a strong wish to learn how to fly. To fulfill the dream of flying he created beautiful wings made of wax. Icarus was happy to glide in heaven that he did not understand that he was raising higher and higher. His father used to warn many times not to come too close to the sun. However, Icarus did not follow the advice and one day raised straight up towards the burning light of the sun. The wax melted and, as a result, Icarus plunged to his death.

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Matisse depicts Icarus flying in the deep blue sky. His body seems to be in free fall. To my mind, it is the moment of inevitable death, of the collapse of hopes and dreams. Matisse managed to create a meditational composition. The bursts of the bright yellow sunshine against the blue sky are rather hypnotic.

Matisse’s Icarus is mysterious and calm, he is not afraid of anything. Thus, he is free. It is necessary to add that Icarus has a bright red spot in the place of his heart. The amazing color used by the artist may represent Matisse’s way of showing Icarus’ obsession for flying.

To conclude, these famous artworks created by Matisse illustrate the depth of the artist’s talent. Furthermore, both of them express the attitude of the painter and his interpretation of the topic.

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