Matisse's Harmony in Red, was painted towards the end of the Fauvist movement in 1908. The artwork is oil on canvas and is 180 x 220cm in size. A relatively short movement, Fauvism began around 1898 and ended in 1908. Artists of the movement included Andre 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 wee 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. By the end of the movement, each artist had firmly established the use of colour as an openly expressive element. .
The subject matter of Matisse's painting is a room, dominated by red, with a table setting, a woman to the far right and a window in the top left corner. The table is covered in a decorative pattern, inspired by oriental art, and matches the pattern on the wall, making it difficult to separate the two. The woman to the right-hand side of the artwork provides some contrast with her dominant black top and white skirt. The view from the window also offers some relief from the dominant red, showing a green field, trees and bushes, and a small building in the very top-left corner. The subject matter is well balanced and effectively positioned.
Matisse's aims for this particular painting appeared to have been, first and foremost, an expression of emotion and feeling through the use of colour. In keeping with the ideals of Fauvism, he believed in using bright and vibrant colours, as well as large flat areas of colour, as a means of creating an emotional depth to his painting.