1879 – 1953


The painter Henri Matisse (French, born 31 December 1869 in Cateau-Cambrésis – died 3 November 1954 in Nice) is one of the most prominent artists of the 20th century, best known as a founding member of the Fauvist movement, for his modernist innovations in painting, sculpture and its original silhouettes of cut papers. Matisse studied law in Paris and then art at the Académie Julian and the École des Beaux-Arts. While his early paintings adopted a naturalistic style, he made increasingly experimental works after studying the art of the Impressionists, becoming familiar with pointillism and other postimpressionist idioms that dominated the artistic movement at the end of the century.


Interested in primitive and African art, Matisse began to paint using bright colours, making paintings with bold outlines, developing his mature Fauvist style in the mid-1900s. He exhibited his work at the Salon des Indépendants and at the Armory Show in New York in 1913; his work was very early sought after by collectors including the famous Gertrude Stein. Between 1914 and 1918, his work became more and more angular and abstract, sometimes presenting abrupt changes from naturalism to abstraction in the same work using soft colours, this change in style is in response to the First World War. Since the 1920s, Matisse has been dividing his time between Paris and the south of France, painting fluid shapes, dynamic patterns and bright colours and working in parallel as a decorator and sculptor. After two operations in the 1940s, Matisse began to focus on paper-cutting techniques in collages he called “paper-cutting”, a method used in his Jazz series and in the designs of several chapels. Highly respected during his lifetime, a retrospective of Matisse’s work was organiseds in 1951 at the MoMA in New York and travelled across the United States. In 1952, the Matisse Museum opened in Cateau-Cambrésis, Matisse’s hometown, two years after his death in 1954.


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NKN_3409_WEB – photo © Gregory Copitet