Art State of Mind

Blue in Art

Isla Phillips-Ewen 23 August 2022 min Read

Is blue your favorite color? Even if it is not the case, look at a trio of famous blues from 20th century art history. Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Yves Klein – these are the masters of capturing their visions in this incredible shade. 

1. The Blue Nudes by Matisse

These lithographs are “cut-outs” by the French artist Henri Matisse (1869-1954).

Henri Matisse, Blue Nude II, 1952, The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA.
Henri Matisse, Blue Nude II, 1952, The Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA.

The technique of cutting out paper, painting it and arranging it was used by Matisse after he had surgery and could no longer create art using regular tools.

Blue in art Henri Matisse, Standing Blue Nude, 1952, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA.
Henri Matisse, Standing Blue Nude, 1952, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY, USA.

The cut-outs – in particular the Blue Nudes – are remarkable because they resemble Matisse’s earlier sculptural work.

Blue in art Henri Matisse, La Serpentine, 1909, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA.
Henri Matisse, La Serpentine, 1909, Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY, USA.

Much of Matisse’s work is in private collections, and for the first time between 2014-2015, the cut-outs were reunited for an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

2. Picasso’s Blue Period

Between 1901 and 1904 Spanish artist Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) made art that meditates on color. This was a move away from his early work, which is more realistic in style.

blue in art Pablo Picasso, Femme aux Bras Croisés (Woman with Folded Arms), 1901-1902, private collection. Wikimedia Commons (public domain).
Pablo Picasso, Femme aux Bras Croisés (Woman with Folded Arms), 1901-1902, private collection. Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

As time went on, Picasso painted with progressively cooler shades. Hence his iconic blue period.

Blue in Art, Pablo Picasso, The Old Guitarist, 1903-1904, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA.
Pablo Picasso, The Old Guitarist, 1903-1904, The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA.

Art from the blue period is sombre in color and content, often featuring lonely, isolated, and sad figures. Some people contend this mournful outlook was a result of a close friend’s suicide.

blue in art, Pablo Picasso, La Vie, 1903, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH, USA.
Pablo Picasso, La Vie, 1903, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH, USA.

3. International Klein Blue

In May 1960, Yves Klein (1928-1962) registered his personal shade of blue. Today, it retains its title and status: “International Klein Blue” (IKB).

Blue in Art, Yves Klein, IKB 191, 1962, private collection. Wikimedia Commons (public domain).
Yves Klein, IKB 191, 1962, private collection. Wikimedia Commons (public domain).

IKB was made in collaboration with Edouard Adam, who was a Parisian art paint supplier and whose shop is still in business on the Boulevard Edgar-Quinet, Montparnasse!

blue in art, Yves Klein, Large Blue Anthropometry (ANT 105) 1960, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY, USA.
Yves Klein, Large Blue Anthropometry (ANT 105) 1960, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY, USA.

With the creation of IKB, Klein began a period of his career known as, you guessed it, the blue period, during which he made over 200 monochrome paintings and sculptures.

Blue in Art, Yves Klein, Venus Bleue (La Vénus d'Alexandrie), 1962-1982. Ketterer Kunst Auction.
Yves Klein, Venus Bleue (La Vénus d’Alexandrie), 1962-1982. Ketterer Kunst Auction.

Yves Klein was an important figure in European post-war art, important to the development of performance and minimal art.

A Final Thought

The artists in this trio are linked in a number of ways: they are seminal artists; they are white; they are European; they are men. Additionally, the trio possesses the power to provoke debates about the objectification and dehumanization of women in art.

Recommended

Spring masterpieces: Claude Monet,The Artist's gareden inGiverny, 1900, Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France Art State of Mind

Spring Is Here! Catch Spring Fever with 7 Masterpieces!

It has finally arrived! Spring is here! The freezing winter says farewell and the good weather is hopefully here to stay. The warm rays of sunshine...

Andra Patricia Ritisan 20 March 2022

Art State of Mind

Art in the Golden Hour

The golden hour is a brief and awe inspiring moment filled with the most radiant light, intense colors, and deep shadows. For centuries artists have...

Marga Patterson 7 April 2022

A city street on a rainy day. Art State of Mind

Rain in Art – Paintings for Pluviophiles

The causal relationship between weather and human emotion is evident on unbearably hot summer days that result in feelings of despair and melancholy.

Maya M. Tola 8 November 2022

Lady writing at desk, Johannes Vermeer Art State of Mind

This Year is the Year—Artsy Resolutions for All Habit Personalities

An estimated 74% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions. After a week, 75% of these resolution makers are still successful. A month later, 64%...

Ledys Chemin 1 January 2022