Lucretia, detail of head and shoulders


Robert Ian Najlis

Emergent Phenomena

Robert Ian Najlis


China, Xi’an 2017

MFA Year 1

Chinese Art Influence

Chinese calligraphy and painting has been an important influence in my art

A Lesson from Matisse


This is an amazing painting by Matisse, which currently resides at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.  I have studied this painting over a period of years.  I have made sketches of it, and even worked up some collages based on the colors and structures.  It amazes me the subtle use of overlapping planes and contrast of soft and hard lines to control movement through space.

Notice for example, how the house in the background, while clearly in the background, does not fall far away from the foreground, but rather maintains a relationship with it.


To see how this is accomplished look at the second and third images below. The roof of the house has a strong black line which brings it slightly front of the tree. Similarly in the third image, the side of the house extends into the leaves of the tree, a different tree, which is quite a bit further in the foreground.



In the fourth image, we can see how another part of the house connects with one of the foreground trees.


We can see similar techniques used in the example below, where the sea interacts with the tree. Note the sea is not the same in to the left and right of the tree. Also, that dark line of blue in the sea above and slightly overlapping the outline of the light blue building brings the sea forward, slightly overlapping rather than slipping into the background. This painting does not follow linear perspective, with elements falling into the background. Instead, elements come forward, and interact.
This way of working is very common with both Matisse and Cezanne, and others such as DeKooning, Rembrandt, Chinese painting, and more.


What is this? This is what Hans Hofmann referred to as Push/Pull. The artist relates all parts of the painting, creating a movement to and fro that keeps the viewer weaving through the whole work, and not stuck in one part or another.