Crockery on a Table
Oil on canvas. 97x82 cm
Source of Entry: State Museum of New Western Art, Moscow. 1930
Most of the works Matisse produced between 1898 and 1903 are undated, but this work is unusual in having both a signature and the date - 1900. Scholars have identified it as the most important still life he painted in that year.
Matisse's interest in Impressionism was past and he was now completely won over to Cezanne's method of building form using colour. The picture space is strictly organised, dynamic and static elements both fixed in perfect equilibrium. Turning the surface of the table up towards the viewer within the rectangular field of the canvas, Matisse both splits apart the picture space and makes it more compact. Majestically unmoved in the centre of the composition are the hot-chocolate pot, the faience soup tureen, the cup and saucer. But the most important element is colour, which the artist liberates from its usual subordination to the natural colour of objects.
He builds the painting up of deep blue and dulled, cold red reflections, in the context of which the pure colour of the bonbon dish, and the exotic lilac, rose and blue reflections on the soup tureen gain in brilliance.
This still life was one of the milestones on the artist's path to his realisation that, for him, "Colour is the first element in painting".