Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse (December 31, 1869 – November 3, 1954) was the leading French artist of the 20th century. Particularly noted for his striking use of colour, Matisse is one of the very few indisputable giants of modern art, alongside Picasso and Kandinsky.

He was born Henri-Emile-Benoit Matisse in Le Cateau-Cambresis, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France, and grew up in Bohain-en-Vermandois. In 1887 he went to Paris to study law. After gaining his qualification he worked as a court administrator in Le Cateau-Cambresis. Following an attack of appendicitis he took up painting during his convalescence. After his recovery, he returned to Paris in 1891 to study art at the Academie Julian and became a student of Odilon Redon and Gustave Moreau.

Influenced by the works of Paul Cezanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh and Paul Signac, and also by traditional Japanese art, he started to see the color as an element of composition. His art is based in a method that (according to himself) consists in boarding separately each element of his work – drawing, color, composition – and joining them in a synthesis. He was the only fauvist to develop his work to a balance between color and line, in flat compositions, without depth. He was one of the first painters in fauvism to be 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.

He painted in the Fauvist manner, becoming known as a leader of that movement. His first exhibition was in 1901 and his first solo exhibition in 1904. His fondess for bright and expressive colour became more pronounced after he moved southwards in 1905 to work with Andre Derain and spent time on the French Riviera, his paintings marked by having the colours keyed up into a blaze of intense shades and characterized by flat shapes and controlled lines, with expression dominant over detail. The decline of the Fauvist movement after 1906 did nothing to affect the rise of Matisse; he had moved beyond them and many of his finest works were created between 1906 and 1917 when he was an active part of the great gathering of artistic talent in Montparnasse.

He was a friend as well as rival of the younger Pablo Picasso, and the two artists are often compared with each other. Matisse-Picasso

Matisse lived in Cimiez on the French Riviera, now a suburb of the city of Nice, from 1917 until his death in 1954. In 1941 he was diagnosed with cancer and, following surgery, he soon needed a wheelchair; this did not stop his work however, but as increased weakness made an easel impossible he created cut paper collages called papiers decoupes, often of some size, which still demonstrated his eye for colour and geometry.

Working in a number of modes, but principally as a painter, Matisse was one of the few artists who achieved widespread fame during their lifetime. Today, a Matisse painting can sell for as much as US$ 17 million. In 2002, a Matisse sculpture, "Reclining Nude I (Dawn)," sold for US$ 9.2 million, a record for a sculpture by the artist.