The Joy of Life: Matisse Analysis

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In the artwork Joy of Life b Henri Matisse, he was a Frenchman that was exploring the expressive potential of color and its relation to form. Then there is the artwork by Van Gogh's The Night Café that is an oil painting that depicts the interior of the café but its title is inscribed lower right beneath the signature. Matisse often painted landscapes in the south of France during the summer and worked up ideas developed there into larger compositions upon his return to Paris. While Gogh would make his art and then write a letter to his brother depicting his artwork and a deeper explanation because it shortens children's attention spans, Matisse was associated with the development of modern art, he had earned some professional training from Picasso. Using representational art to embrace the new brave world., and Being that Gogh's is not like other Impressionists he didn't project a neutral stance toward the world or an attitude of enjoyment of the beauty of nature or the movement. Both pieces might seem incredibly different in some ways but they do have some aspects that make them similar.

In both artworks pieces they both use widely contrasting colors, for example, Van Gogh's artwork The Night Café has some yellow exaggerated lines in a perspective that will grab the attention of the viewer into the painting. There are green billiard tables outlined in heavy black, while the yellow walls give on to blood-red walls that lead to an obstructive green ceiling. In the artwork Joy of Life, the artist used green bodies, pink trees, and a multicolored sky that are naturalistic. He was an inspired choice of colors based on what he sees or imagines. Another aspect that they had similar is that both art pieces used composition. In Matisse’s piece, he used the landscape that he painted in Collioure to provide the setting for the idyll, the scene is made up of independent motifs arranged to form a complete composition. Likewise, in the artwork The Night Café the awning and the walls of the café and the use of a gentle touch of yellow cut into the sky to enhance the colors and form the main composition.

Some of the formal differences that both these artworks have, Van Gogh's artwork really captures the eye of the audience with the texture. The graphic texture of the café of the warmth of the colors gives off that humble and peaceful place to go to at night. In contrast to the texture of Henri Matisse’s painting where the texture is a two-dimensional type of art because of how the different drawings that are going on the artwork. The perceived people in the artwork are all doing something different which represents their joy in life. Another formal difference is that the Joy of Life painting is a large-scale painting that depicts an Arcadian landscape that shows a forest, with sea and the sky looking beautiful with the colors and populated with nude figures that represent people with some still and some seem in motion. In contrast to Van Gogh's artwork, it’s a size of 30 which is a standard French size for artwork. The Night Café was an impressionist work, this is an art movement that consists of small or thin visible brush strokes with an emphasis on the light in its changing qualities. In that artwork you can observe how the color of the light depicted plays a huge part in the art piece showing the sense of loneliness in the café at night, it is shown through the way the slouched drinks. Brings this café to a place where there is frustration and how it can be an escape from reality. While the Joy of Life artwork focuses on modernism, which embraces the movement of modern subjects, industrial materials and etc. For example, in the art piece, Matisse founded Fauvism which emphasizes bold and exaggerated color. In the painting, his use of bold lines to define the colors of the nude figures and the exaggerated colors of pink, blue, green and the list goes on of the brightness and the sense of joy portrayed in the painting.

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Both artworks wanted to send out a message, for example in the painting The Night Café Van Gogh writes his brother a letter, like his previous artworks he does this all the time in the letter it said “ I have tried to express the terrible passions of humanity by means of red and green. The room is blood red and dark yellow with a green billiard table in the middle; there are four lemon-yellow lamps with a glow of orange and green. Everywhere there is a clash and contrast of the most alien reds and greens, in the figures of little sleeping hooligans, in the empty dreary room, in violet and blue. The blood-red and the yellow-green of the billiard table, for instance, contrast with the soft tender Louis XV green of the counter, on which there is a rose nosegay. The white clothes of the landlord, watchful in a corner of that furnace, turn lemon-yellow, or pale luminous green”. He uses such violent use of colors and thick texture he even said this is one of the ugliest pictures he has ever done. He used color to convey his feelings and emotions and his concerns about the condition of people which later is called Expressionism. The message conveyed in the artwork Joy of Life depicted a representation of the joy of lovemaking and dancing which infused the colors of the painting and rhythmic shapes on the canvas. He showed the natural feeling of being happy all the nude figures are in a peaceful environment enjoying the sky and the sea and that’s what he was expressing to the audience.

What inspired Van Gogh to paint the artwork of The Night Café is that he loved the night in the quote he says “I have a terrible need of dare I say religion then I go outside at night and paint stars”. He then continued to paint the night scene of the café right on the spot at night using no blacks. His father was a preacher and Vincent went into ministry for a while. It wasn’t until later Gogh decided his own ministry would find a way to give hope and consolation to humanity through his art. In contrast, Henri Matisse’s motive for creating Joy of Life was based on an explored vision as experienced through time and space. He used a shifting perspective to use a grand scale and create such meaning.

In conclusion, both these artworks are very well put together and took some thought about the meaning of the artwork. Both artists did a great job putting vivid colors and different aspects of their artwork to appeal to the audience. Both art pieces show similar traits but also differ which makes them unique.


  1. Joy of Life (Bonheur de Vivre), 1905 by Henri Matisse. Accessed December 6, 2019.
  2. “Le Café De Nuit (The Night Café).” Le café de nuit (The Night Café) | Yale University Art Gallery. Accessed December 6, 2019.
  3. “Matisse, Bonheur De Vivre.” Khan Academy. Khan Academy. Accessed December 6, 2019.
  4. Barnes Collection Online - Henri Matisse: Le Bonheur de vivre, also called The Joy of Life. Accessed December 6, 2019.
  5. “The Night Café: Van Gogh Gallery.” The Night Café | Van Gogh Gallery. Accessed December 6, 2019.
  6. “Le Café De Nuit (The Night Café).” Le café de nuit (The Night Café) | Yale University Art Gallery. Accessed December 6, 2019.
  7. “Henri Matisse, The Joy of Life, 1905-06. Fauvism.” Marina's Gallery. Accessed December 6, 2019.
  8. The Night Cafe, 1888 by Vincent Van Gogh. Accessed November 18, 2019.
  9. “Le Café De Nuit (The Night Café).” Le café de nuit (The Night Café) | Yale University Art Gallery. Accessed November 18, 2019.
  10. Joy of Life (Bonheur de Vivre), 1905 by Henri Matisse. Accessed November 18, 2019.
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The Joy of Life: Matisse Analysis. (2023, August 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved May 26, 2024, from
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