Home   Art   Artists   Museums   Schools   Library  



Henri Matisse (1869 – 1954)





Henri Matisse


Birth name Henri Matisse

Born 31 December 1869 , Le Cateau, France

Died 3 November 1954, Nice, France

Nationality French

Movement Post-Impressionism, Fauvism



Having completed law studies he started to paint in 1890. He attended the Academie Julian, then, with Rouault and Marquet, studied under Gustave Moreau, who deeply influenced him. He copied many paintings in the Louvre, only abandoning himself to Impressionism in 1898 at Belle-Isle, in Corsica or on the Cote d'Azur. Pissarro's influence became marked. After various experiments he tried his hand at sculpture in 1900. At Collioure he gave full value to bold colour and simplified form (1904-1905). He presided
over the selection committee of the 1905 Salon des Independants, and in the spring of the same year established himself at Collioure where Derain joined him. Fascinated by Cezanne, attracted to the Neo-Impressionism of Seurat and Signac, Matisse's Fauvist period lasted from 1905 to 1908. After the "wild-beast cage" scandal which burst at the 1905 Salon d'automne, Matisse became the accepted leader of the movement, exerting a strong influence over its exponents. In 1908 he opened an academy to which German and Scandinavian students thronged. Important pictures of this period include Interior with Harmonium (1900), Luxe, Calme et Volupte (1905) and Le Luxe (1907). Recalling having watched Matisse while he was painting Luxe, Calme et Volupte Signac wrote: "Object in front of him, Matisse traces the outline of the feet on the floor, as he does with models in his studio, to mark the exact position. He works plumbline in hand so that he can study the slightest alteration in vertical rhythm. He looks at the lush, flowering eucalyptus
tree with its myriad branches for a long time. Then he patiently experiments to find the right colour to fill in the contours dictated by the shapes he has discovered; and out of that leafy tree, omitting branches and foliage, he makes a bare cylinder that bears no resemblance whatever to the original. Looking at it later you see that instead of possessing the flimsy quality of reality, it has astonishing permanency." In a manifesto published in 1908 in La Grande Revue he proposed that all objective meaning be sacrificed to feeling for the coloured arabesque. He never turned to Cubism or departed from such orthodox subjects as nudes, interiors, still-life studies and landscapes. He travelled to Spain and Russia, and lived in Morocco from 1911 to 1913. He worked for the Diaghilev Ballet, then settled in Nice in 1917. In 1930 he embarked for the United States and Tahiti. In 1933 he executed Dance, a vast mural, for Dr Barnes' (USA). In 1938 he moved to Cimiez near Nice, then to Venice in 1943 where he decorated the Dominican Chapel. After 1947 he freed himself completely from classicism using a mixture of coloured paper cut-outs, gouache and crayon-final explosive outbursts of joy. In 1950 he won the Grand Prix at the Venice Biennale. Matisse, creator of pure painting, produced masterpieces throughout his entire life: La Joie de Vivre (1905), The Red Studio (1916), The Piano Lesson (1917) and Portrait of Mademoiselle Yvonne Landsberg (1914). Matisse's ideal was" an art of balance, purity and tranquillity, free of disquieting or preoccupying subjects".

Post-Impressionism, Michel-Claude Jalard, Edito Service SA, Geneva


Index of pictures












Support us