African influences in Modern art

Many modern art masters like Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Paul Klee took their inspiration from the “savages”. They visited museum of African artefacts, collected the artefacts and traveled to North Africa. They found that African beauty is filled with emotional intensity of irregular colour tones, distortion on figure, simplified shapes (geometrical & curve) and also symbolical imagery (seen in Paul Klee’s works). The new way is their “savages” way against old western art rules. The savages value is pure, simplified, free, animalistic and noble.


Picasso (1907) Les Demoiselles d’Avignon – date: 23/01/15

The composition in this painting of five figures is flat, the faces is masks-like and imbued with cubism characteristics.

In 1904, Paul Klee travelled to Tunisia. During his stay he revived his sense of colour by detaching colour from its physical character, and used it freely. It was a pivotal moment in his art of abstraction (abstract forms, symbols and colour).


Henri Matisse (1905-06) Joy of Life – date: 23/01/15

Composition in Matisse’s work above is against all western perspective rule. Colour is applied as emotional expression detached from its physical nature.


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