The Dessert: Harmony in Red

The Dessert: Harmony in Red, Henri Matisse (1908), copy of by Derek Kosbab 2010

Acrylic on canvas: 1000mm x 1200mm

I’ve been looking at this picture in art books for fifty years and am quite familiar with it. When, in Amsterdam this year I visited The Hermitage Museum (the famous Hermitage Musuem is in Leningrad but they have opened a branch in Amsterdam and transferred some fabulous artwork) where I saw the original.

It was on a wall facing the entry doorway of the museum, and the first thing that struck me was the size of the painting: huge, almost twice the size of my copy above. The red colouring of the picture was outstanding. The combination of the size and colour made the picture memorable. When I inspected it closely I realised how slapdash the actual painting was. The unpainted original canvas could be seen in places and the brushwork could be described as flimsy: more like an underpainting rather than a finished product.

The Dessert: Harmony in Red is a painting by French artist Henri Matisse. It is considered by some critics to be Matisse’s masterpiece. It is an example of Impressionism‘s lack of a central focal point. The painting was ordered by Sergei Shchukin as “Harmony in Blue,” but Matisse was dissatisfied with the result, and so he painted it over with his preferred red.

It was painted towards the end of the Fauvist movement in 1908. A relatively short movement, Fauvism began around 1898 and ended in 1908. Artists of the movement included Andrè Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck, Raoul Duffy, Jean Puy and of course, Henri Matisse, the founding father of Fauvism. The movement got its name from the French term Les Fauves, meaning ‘the wild beasts,’ after a critic related the phrase to the artists’ first exhibition, in 1905. The Fauvist artists were primarily concerned with a vibrant and intense use of colour, aimed at evoking an emotional response within the viewer. The movement was revolutionary in that it inspired the use of colour as a means of expression, and illustrated the ability to apply point in abstraction.

For more information on Henri Matisse and his artworks go to:



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