Henri Matisse was born on December 31, 1869, as the son of a grain merchant in the Picardy in Le Cateau–Cambrésis, France. He grew up at Bohain-en-Vermandois and studied law in Paris from 1887 to 1888. By 1891, he had abandoned law and started to paint (When Henri Matisse was 21 years old he became seriously ill as he had an acute attack of appendicitis. During the phase of convalescence Matisse started painting and discovered his love for art, which should become his life-long passion. he began to paint after ). In Paris, Matisse studied art for brief periods at the Académie Julian and then at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts with Gustave Moreau.
In 1901, Matisse exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris and met another future leader of the Fauve movement, Maurice de Vlaminck. His first solo show took place at the Galerie Vollard in 1904. Both Leo and Gertrude Stein, as well as Etta and Claribel Cone, began to collect Matisse’s work at that time. Like many avant-garde artists in Paris, Matisse was receptive to a broad range of influences. He was one of the first painters to take an interest in primitive art. Matisse abandoned the palette of the Impressionists and established his characteristic style, with its flat, brilliant color and fluid line. His subjects were primarily women, interiors, and still lifes. In 1913, his work was included in the Armory Show in New York. By 1923, two Russians, Sergei Shchukin and Ivan Morosov, had purchased nearly 50 of his paintings. From the early 1920s until 1939, Matisse divided his time primarily between the South of France and Paris. During this period, he worked on paintings, sculptures, lithographs, and etchings, as well as on murals for the Barnes Foundation, Merion, Pennsylvania, designs for tapestries, and set and costume designs for Léonide Massine’s ballet Rouge et noir. While recuperating from two major operations in 1941 and 1942, Matisse concentrated on a technique he had devised earlier: papiers découpés (paper cutouts). Jazz, written and illustrated by Matisse, was published in 1947; the plates are stencil reproductions of paper cutouts.
In 1948, he began the design for the decoration of Chapelle du Rosaire at Vence, which was completed and consecrated in 1951. The same year, a major retrospective of his work was presented at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and then traveled to Cleveland, Chicago, and San Francisco. In 1952, the Musée Matisse was inaugurated at the artist’s birthplace of Le Cateau–Cambrésis. Matisse continued to make large paper cutouts, the last of which was a design for the rose window at Union Church of Pocantico Hills, New York. He died on November 3, 1954, in Nice.
The Master of Colors
After an exhibition of their works in 1905 at the Salon d'Automne the group around Matisse and Andre Derain was ironically and pejoratively dubbed Les Fauves, which literally means The Wild Beasts. His earlier work, especially Luxe, Calme, et Volupte, was very pointilistic as he was very much influenced by Seurat. Matisse became Neo-Impressionistic, using both colors and shapes boldly. From 1905 to 1906 Matisse painted one of his best paintings, The Joy of Life. It is considered to be one of the most important works of Twenty Century art and was bought by the famous art collector Dr. Albert C. Barnes. This painting and the whole Barnes collection was veiled from the public for 72 years. Finally the collection of the Barnes Foundation was opened to the art world again in 1993 and can be visited outside Philadelphia. The American writer Gertrude Stein and her brother Leo were early collectors and supporters of Matisse paintings. Another admirer became Pablo Picasso with whom he exchanged paintings in 1907. After World War I, Matisse had gained a high reputation and was an internationally recognized artist. His later work emphasized the saturation of color and a simplicity of lines. In several works, he exhibits a plasticity of forms that complements his simplistic and saturated use of color. In some of his paintings, he transposed patterns which diminished the sense of space in his work. Matisse was a primary mover of the Fauves and was widely recognized, making various connections with the American community in France. Matisse sculpted in clay, bronze and ceramics as well. He also ran an art academy for three years. Many of his paintings featured views out of windows and partial interiors. In 1908, Matisse published "Notes d'un Peintre" which embodied his personal statement as an artist.In 1917 he left Paris and settled in Nice in the South of France where he remained until the end of his life. In 1925 he was honoured with the French Legion of Honor award.
The Late Years
In 1941 Matisse had an abdominal cancer surgery which had a devastating effect on his health and ability to paint. He was unable to stand upright in front of an easel. The artist therefore turned to another form of artistic ex-pression. He created paper cut-outs in the same vivid, strong colors and daring compositions known from his paintings. He had an assistant and could work lying in bed or sitting comfortably in an arm-chair. Henri Matisse died on November 3, 1954 in Nice as an internationally well known and highly reputable artist. He had continued creating paper cutout works until the day of his death. Pablo Picasso once said about the artist: "All things considered, there is only Matisse".
Henri Matisse Citations
"I have always tried to hide my efforts and wished my works to have the light joyousness of springtime, which never lets anyone suspect the labors it has cost me."
"In modern art, it is undoubtedly to Cezanne that I owe the most."
"A colorist makes his presence known even in a single charcoal drawing."
"The essential thing is to spring forth, to express the bolt of lightning one senses upon contact with a thing. The function of the artist is not to translate an observation but to express the shock of the object on his nature; the shock, with the original reaction."
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