HENRI-ÉMILE-BENOîT MATISSE was born in Le Cateau- Cambrésis, France in 1869. He was raised by a middle class family and opened up a law practice in Le Cateau-Cambrésis. While recovering from appendicitis, Matisse began experimenting with art. He enjoyed it immensely. Two years later, Matisse abandoned law entirely and moved to Paris to attend art school. He joined the Ecole des Beaux-Arts studio where he met the collection of artists who later became known as the Fauvists.
Initially, Matisse painted traditional still-lifes and landscapes. However, in 1898, he visited London and Corsica and was greatly inspired by his travels. Matisse was influenced by artists such as Paul Gauguin, Vincent van Gogh and Paul Cézanne who used colour not only to render forms but to organize spatial planes. He was also inspired by Signac and the popularization on pointalism as a technique. He experimented with using tiny brushstokes of contrasting colour to create the illusion of depth as well as radiance. As he became more familiar with the style, Matisse began using larger brushstrokes.
When Matisse returned to Paris in 1899, he began painting with Albert Marquet and met André Derain, Jean Puy and Jules Flandrin. In 1905, he exhibited with fellow artists Andre Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck. The exhibition of emotionally charged and vividly coloured paintings compelled art critics of the time to refer to them as “Les Fauves” (literally, “the wild beasts”). Matisse later formed a lifelong friendship with his peer and artistic rival Pablo Picasso.
Matisse exhibited paintings of people reclining or dancing whose distorted forms were highly expressive. His skilled linework and draftsmanship were evident in these works. Although Matisse was formally educated in both law and art, he valued intuition and instinct above all other modes of inspiration. The artist was highly in tune to his own sensitivities. He often spoke of the joy of abandoning ones self to rhythm, colour and design. The harmonious nature of his work was derived naturally from this process.
Matisse spent the last years of his life painting in the south of France. He rendered landscapes using fluid washes of bright colour. He also experimented with the new technique of decoupage. Matisse died in Nice on November 3, 1954, at the age of 84. He enjoyed a tremendous amount of fame and appreciation over the course of his own lifetime and has influenced generations of artist since.
Henri Matisse : vierge en enfant, 1950, lithograph, signed, 9 x 15