Visit: Directions | Contact: Details

FOTAG Focus Articles

For a number of years the Natal Witness ran articles by FOTAG members. These articles called the FOTAG Focus discussed artworks from the collection on display.

Home > Articles > Fotag Focus > Tête, Henri Matisse



Henri Matisse (1869-1954)

by Colin Gardner

Tête, Henri MatisseMatisse was one of the great artists of the first half of the twentieth century. It is an indication of the richness of the Tatham Art Gallery's collection that it should have, among all its South African and international gems, graphic works by such artists as Degas, Matisse, Picasso, Braque, Miro and Chagall.

Matisse was a tireless experimenter and a sophisticated theoretician, but he always believed in the power of the artist's feelings and intuitions. He moved from naturalism to impressionism, and then to pointillism, and then on to what came to be called fauvisme (having the quality of wild animals). He and his friends were given this name because of the dramatic colours and strong emotions that their art expressed. But within all these changes of method and focus he remained what all artists have been: a person determined to create something which would be alive and which would bring the world to life in a new way.

This capacity is vividly illustrated in his wonderfully alive portrait of a young woman. With a few daringly simple strokes he has created for us, and for all time, a person who is lovely, warm, alert, and good-humoured. As one walks through the part of the gallery where she is hanging, she smiles and almost speaks to one. For all the stark simplicity of the artist's execution, she has been endowed with a glowing inwardness.

Great art can convey many different feelings. The emotion that seems dominant in this work is sheer enjoyment, a delight in life. The young woman herself exudes a confident cheerfulness, and this meshes with the artist's delight in his work. Indeed she is the artist's joy. And this joy is conveyed to us. The created woman, Matisse and we the spectators are all united in a warm embrace, like old friends. One of the many functions of art is to make us conscious of our shared humanity.

More FOTAG Focus Articles


Johansson collectionThe Tatham Art Gallery holds an Art Collection that contains significant British and French artworks dating back to the 18th century. Its South-African art collection is focused on, but not exclusive to, the art of KwaZulu-Natal.


ImageThe Tatham Art Gallery hosts a range of Art Exhibitions. These include traveling and researched exhibitions as well as exhibitions initiated by the Gallery and compiled from the collection.


A selection of current and archival articles from the Tatham Art Gallery. These articles provide a historical and contemporary perspective on the Gallery and the visual arts in KwaZulu-Natal.

Art Gallery Shop

ImageThe Tatham Art Gallery shop stocks high quality works by local crafters. It is an ideal place to find unique presents and original collectables.