Artist biographies

Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse (1869-1954) studied law in Paris at the insistence of his father, but started to paint in 1889; from 1891 he devoted himself exclusively to art. At the Académie Julian he studied under William Bouguereau, then under Gustave Moreau at the Académie des Beaux-Arts, where he met Marquet, Manguin, Rouault and Guérin. Initially Matisse painted in a fairly traditional style, inspired by the Old Masters. In 1898 he travelled with his wife Amélie to Corsica, where the light and colours of the south inspired him enormously. Back in Paris he became fascinated by the work of Van Gogh and later Cézanne and Gauguin. During this period he began to produce his first sculptures. In 1904 he also experimented for a time with pointillism. In the same year he had his first one-man show at Vollard's gallery.

While staying with André Derain in the fishing village of Collioure in southern France in 1905, Matisse began to use broader brushstrokes and very expressive colours. He displayed a number of works in this style at the 1905 Salon d’Automne, alongside paintings by Marquet, Vlaminck and Derain. The exhibition – and especially Matisse’s work – caused a great commotion. The exhibitors were mockingly dubbed Fauves, or ‘wild beasts’ and Matisse soon acquired a reputation as their undisputed leader. In subsequent years the artist experienced his most productive period and painted his best known pictures. He gained international recognition and his work was purchased by collectors such as Ivan Morozov and Sergey Shukin – for whom he produced such outstanding paintings as The Red Room, Dance and Music.

In 1917 Matisse moved to southern France and settled in Nice. For some ten years his work became more tempered and ‘classical’. After an operation in 1941 the painter was confined to a wheelchair. No longer able to paint in his previous fashion, he began to make colourful collages with cut-out pieces of paper (découpages). He also produced prints and book illustrations. In 1947 Matisse published a book, Jazz, of his own texts and découpages. In subsequent years he produced a number of designs, including creation of the Chapel of the Rosary in Vence. He continued to work until his death in 1954.

Matisse at work, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Getty Images.jpg

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