Henri Matisse uses women as the centerpiece of his painting, which gives a type of effect to his painting. The women are used as objects to create an erotic feeling to the audience. This, in turn, evokes the theme of earthly paradise from the paintings. The artist expressed how women were suffering through sexual exploitation at the hands of their masters. It is through this discovery that he produced the masterpiece yellow odalisque. People used the painting to signify erotic paintings in the 19th Century. Using his fantasy, the artist employs the use of colour and antique surface effects to bring out his subjects in a way he sees fit.
The main theme captured in this painting is the sexual exploitation of women. All the social realities and sexism are buried under the surrounding rhetoric, which turns out to be serious. Female slaves in Renaissance France lived in the servant quarters. The duties of the chambermaids were to tend to the wives of the Sultans. But in some cases where they turned out to be extraordinarily beautiful, they would be used as sexual objects by the Sultans. Later on, they would be turned into concubines. They were like sexual gratification for the males around. The painting shows how beautiful chambermaids were only seen for their beauty and what they could offer to their masters. They did not have any control over their bodies. The Sultans could have them any time and in whatever way, they pleased.
The artist employs the yellow colour in this particular painting to show the value of decoration in art. The colour could also signify a ray of hope to the chambermaids in his work of art. He struggled to produce art that was void of depressing subject matters and that is why the colours he used were dazzling. In the 19th Century, the artist was renowned and thus, he inspired artists like Clement Greenberg, who used art t provide comfort to the modern world, which was disoriented. Unlike his fellow artist Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse drew his inspiration from nature. He was interested in primitive nature and he made him travel to other continents like Africa s that he could get inspiration for his artwork. He claimed that he does not just paint things but paints the difference he notices in his subjects.