An art of balance

Jeff and I enjoyed a soothing, calming afternoon at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in D.C., July 2013

Jeff and I enjoyed a soothing, calming afternoon at the Corcoran Gallery in DC, July 2013

“What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity devoid of  troubling or depressing subject matter – a soothing, calming influence on the  mind, rather like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue.” Henri Matisse

I understand and agree that art is meant to do a variety of things.  Some works are thought-provoking or even disturbing rather than comforting, and these are no less impressive than the ones we find instantly appealing; indeed, they may be more so, since they involve daring and indifference to criticism.

Regardless of this, I am most thankful for artists who recognize the need to use their talent as a balm for the hurts of life.  We all have times when we would benefit from an afternoon stroll through a quiet, spacious gallery, a few minutes spent enjoying a beautiful symphony, or even curling up with a cozy mystery or other novel with a happy ending.

Among the painters, sculptors, writers, poets, composers, musicians, architects and other artists you enjoy, whose work reminds you most of the description Matisse gives us here?  What are some of your favorite “armchair” creations?


  1. Mike Bertoglio

    Probably any of the Renoir flower paintings, but especially the one labeled Dahlias that I saw recently at the MET museum in NYC.
    And the river side painting of folks with parasols on the banks relaxing on the banks of the Seinne-Matisse?

    • Mike, you may be thinking of A Sunday Afternoon On The Island Of La Grande Jatte by Georges Seurat. It’s a favorite of mine too; I saw it “in real life” for the first time a few years ago at the Art Institute of Chicago. I’m not familiar with Renoir’s Dahlias, but I have a strong preference for all the Impressionists, my favorite being Camille Pissarro. Something about that school makes me feel as if I am THERE in the picture, even more so than the landscapes of Gainsborough or Constable, which I also love. And I do find them comfortable and relaxing, very soothing to the mind.

  2. By all means, Claude Monet, the founder of French Impressionism and an incredible painter of light. The sheer mention of his name brings water lilies, windmills, sailboats, and women with parasols shielding themselves from the sun to mind…..a true master of painting. I find it astounding that such beauty exuded from his life, and yet, he was a lifelong atheist. Oh, how sad to have missed the point.

    • Wow, I love Monet and I never realized he was an atheist! Perhaps he was driven all the more to find meaning through beauty. I don’t recall ever seeing a Monet painting that did not bring me cheer. Thanks for your comment here, Starr! Hope you and your family are doing well.

      • We are doing well. Thank you. I enjoy your posts. You have a beautiful gift for writing. Blessings to you and your family. I pray God’s best for them.

        • Thank you 🙂

  3. Sheila

    Julia, just last Saturday Bill and I went to a gallery of fine art photography, images captured from around the world, by Benjamin Walls. It’s still so fresh in my mind! I so hope you can enjoy his works sometime when you’re in the Bristol,Va.(Tn.) area. Almost Friday, I’m in my “armchair” for a few minutes. Sheila

    • Thanks, Sheila! I had not heard of Walls, but I found some of his work at this website and I’m so pleased to be introduced to him. I hope you and Bill have a wonderful weekend!

  4. I love art of all types but like you I want it to make me happy. I love teaching art to children because they are so open to it and to their own ideas of what is fun or funny. Several years ago I started a program with my students and I used the book, “I See A Song” by Eric Carle. The children love it and it is such a great way to introduce music and art of different types. I miss teaching. Interestingly it is the birthday of Claude Debussy the composer of Clair de Lune. He wrote some lovely music. Google has a great little celebration going on for his birthday if you have time to check it out. Thanks for sharing this. I hope to get to that museum some day. My next goal for DC though is a thorough tour of the National Cathedral. I have never been. Love you.

    • Amy, we simply MUST plan some days to explore the city together while Jeff and I are still living in the area. Thanks for the info about Debussy; I love his music and just recently heard some of his lesser known works (the names of which I still don’t remember) and found them my favorites of all he’s done. I’ll try to look up some of it online. I really miss hearing the Writer’s Almanac each day; I used to enjoy finding out whose birthday it was. I need to figure out what time it comes on the radio here. I used to wake up to it every morning at 6:00 a.m. in York Co. Have a great weekend! Love to you too.

  5. Mike Bertoglio

    Yes that is the one by Georges Seurat.”The Island of Grand Jarat.”

  6. Having lived a good deal of my adult life near water, I’ve always been a fan of John Singer Sargent for his paintings of casual lake side moments. As far as I know very little about art, I have to go with my gut and seldom enjoy contemporary fair by the likes of Keith Haring or Jack Pollack. To chaotic to my eye. I did however spot this gal on Etsy and really fell for her style. I’ve book marked it for when we finally find a house, I plan on selecting something.

    • Wow, you and I must have similar tastes – I really liked Yellena’s pictures; thanks for the link. I’m with you, most modern art doesn’t do much for me. I used to have this painting from Sargent on my online screen saver gallery on my very first computer – love it! I know very little about art myself, but I grew up looking at books that had full color reproductions of paintings in them, and used to spend hours enjoying them.

      • Your Sargent selection is so idyllic, wonderful. Did you ever play that game ‘Masterpiece’ when you were a kid? It was so amazing to visit the London National Gallery in Trafalgar Square and see so many of the originals, hanging right there in front of me. Beautiful Monet’s, Renoir’s, Degas…..just unbelievable.

        • No, I never did play Masterpiece, but I had the same thrill of seeing the paintings in the National Gallery in London, because my father had a lovely volume that contained full page reproductions of dozens of that Gallery’s works, and my little brother and I used to sit and look at it for hours. I absconded with the book years ago and it’s been on my one shelves ever since. When I went to the National Gallery, it was almost like seeing old friends I had known only through letters or photographs! I love that gallery, maybe my second favorite of all time (after the Musee d’Orsay).

          • What a nice way to think of it, “like seeing old friends”. I just love that. You are a word artist, with a masterful brush!

            • Wow, that’s a very nice compliment – thank you! 🙂

  7. TRUTH!

    • Thank you, Starr!

  8. Sometimes I knit, although I used to do cross stitch. Sadly nowadays I tend to sit and play games on my iPad.

    • Well, you have lots of company there! Knitting was quite the rage over here a few years back and seems to be very popular still. I think you create the kind of art Matisse dreamed of through your photos. Your walks with the dogs and other cozy things (cooking etc.) are very calming and soothing to my mind.


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