The Importance of Color and Balance in the Work of Nolde and Matisse

Color was tremendously important to the artist Emil Nolde and Henri Matisse.  They used color to achieve balance, vividness, and brilliance.  Both men were born in the eighteen sixties and died in the nineteen fifties, therefore they were painting during the same time period.  They were European with Nolde being from Germany and Matisse from France.  They shared an extraordinary use of color.

Emil Nolde painted the famous still life Tulips using bright vivid color choices.  It is a watercolor on paper yet the colors almost have the same depth as oils.  The background in Tulips is a range of light and dark shades of violet.  The darkness is achieved by the amount of blue in the violet.  The actual flowers are deep shades of red, orange, yellow, and white.

They are very detailed in shape and form.  Matisse painted the still life Tulips and Oysters on Black Background.   These two artists used similar colors in their work, but the works were different.  Matisse uses a deep brownish red instead of black as the title suggested for the background.  Like Nolde, he uses vibrant shades of red, orange, yellow and white which create the same warm tone as Nolde’s.  However, Tulips and Oysters on Black Background is not as defined and has more objects like a table and oysters along with the tulips.

The focal point of each painting is the tulips.  In Tulips by Nolde, he uses colors that are analogues to achieve the warmth of the flowers that are a symbol of spring and warmer weather.  Matisse also uses red in the color of the tulips even though he uses more white than Nolde.  His use of analogues are placed on the table.  He uses the red table, yellow lemons, and the deeper shade of red in the tulips to create the same warmth that Nolde does.

Both Nolde and Matisse use complimentary colors as well to achieve balance.  They both use green in the leaves and stems to compliment the red in the tulips. In Tulips by Nolde, orange is complimented by the shades of blue in the background.  Tulips and Oysters on Black Background by Matisse uses the blue in the vase to compliment the orange red of the table.  Nolde adds a random yellow tulip at the base of his arrangement so that the violet of the background will be complimented While the violet rims of the oysters compliment the vibrant yellow lemons on the table.


Delahunt, M. (1996-2008). Artlex. Retrieved April 9, 2008 from

Matisse, H. (1943-44). Tulips and Oysters on Black Background

Nolde, E. (1930). Tulips