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Died: 3th November 1954
Henri Matisse was a French avant-garde artist and one of the most influential figures in modern art. Matisse was known for his bold use of colors, distorted shapes and the vibrancy with which he imbued his canvases. Matisse was a firm believer in the self-sufficiency of painting as a medium and its enormous expressive capacities. According to Matisse, “a painting should be like a comfortable armchair.”
Matisse was born in 1869 in Le Cateau-Cambrésis, the same region in Northern France where Vincent van Gogh was born sixteen years earlier. His father was a grain merchant and Matisse’s family enjoyed a comfortable middle-class life. Matisse studied law in Paris, but quickly abandoned his studies to pursue painting. He developed a style which departed radically from classical technique, favoring instead fluidity of line, vibrant color and flatness. After studying under Gustave Moreau at the École des Beaux-Arts, Matisse exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris in 1901, where his unique approach produced as much scandal as it did excitement. Matisse was associated with the Fauves (literally “wild beasts”) for the energy and vitality of his works. “The essential thing is to spring forth, to express the bolt of lightning one senses upon contact with a thing,” Matisse once said of art, “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.”
In 1906, Matisse met Pablo Picasso in Gertrude and Leo Stein’s salon. The two artists would correspond and compete with one another until the end of Matisse’s life, important critics and inspirations to each other. Matisse once said, “Only one person has the right to criticize me…It’s Picasso.” Picasso, younger than Matisse, was constantly trying to win the older artist’s attention, sometimes parodying his works. The unique relationship between the artists is one of the greatest artistic rivalries of 20th century art. Both were radical in their approaches to painting, though similar in their reverence of painting as a medium and their exploration of conventional subjects, such as still lifes, female nudes, and so forth.
Matisse would also produce sculptural works, known for the same dynamic and expressive contours which characterized his paintings. Matisse’s later works move away from Fauvism towards a more subdued style, though he still maintained the autonomy of painting from its subject and intensely saturated colors. During the last fifteen years of his life, Matisse began to produce paper cutouts, “cutting into color,” as he referred to it. Freehand cutouts were glued together in compositions both harmonious and dynamic.
Matisse was also one of the first artists to develop an interest in “primitive” art, whose vibrant energy inspired works like the iconic “Dance” (1940), where expressiveness is preferred over precision and vitality over propriety. “What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity…” said Matisse once. Later in his life, Matisse also worked with sculpture, printmaking and, towards the end of his life, a series of well-known paper cutouts. Matisse is widely regarded as one of the most influential figures in Modern Art.
Watch a slideshow of works by Henri Matisse:(read less)
Techniques & Media: Drawing, Mixed Media, Painting, Print, Sculpture
Inspirations & Key Themes: Color, Movement, Nature
Influenced : Mark Wiener , John Baldessari , Georges Braque , Francesca Gabbiani
Influenced by : Georges Braque
Worked with : Kees van Dongen