Matisse, Henri

Born in 1869 and died in 1954, Henri Matisse was a French painter, draughtsman, engraver and sculptor whose work represented a major turning point in modern art. He developed a passion for printmaking techniques, particularly lithography, and applied the spontaneous lines of his paintings and drawings to lithographic stone. Read the biography

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Henri Matisse was born in Chateau-Cambrésis in 1869 and studied law in Paris. He began painting while convalescing from medical complications, and painted his first picture in 1890, Still life with books. From 1892, he worked alongside Gustave Moreau in his studio, where he was soon joined by other students such as Georges Rouault. After years of academic work, Matisse moved away from the norms of painting towards innovative artistic currents, such as Impressionism, which he discovered through contact with a friend of Claude Monet. He left the Beaux-Arts for the Carrière academy, where he rubbed shoulders André Derain and  Maurice de Vlaminck. Under the influence of these encounters, Matisse oriented his painting towards Expressionism, exhibiting at the Salon des Indépendants in 1901 and at the first edition of the Salon d'Automne in 1903. In 1905, he caused a scandal at an exhibition alongside Vlaminck, Derain and Kees Van Dongen They were criticized for their overly violent use of pure colors, and the way they were hung was compared to a "cage aux fauves", hence the name "fauvism". Matisse, unlike other Fauvists of the time, did not encounter too many obstacles to exhibiting and quickly gained visibility. This enabled him to open an academy from 1908 to 1911, which attracted many students. His subsequent travels enabled him to constantly renew his approach to art. In the '10s, he found himself influenced by Cubism, whose influence can be felt in the painting Portrait of Yvonne Landsberg (1914). He worked on numerous projects, including Igor Stravinsky's commission for the costumes and sets for the ballet Le Chant du Rossignol or the illustration of the novel Ulysses by James Joyce. Like many of his contemporaries, Matisse was fascinated by printmaking techniques. In particular, he trained in lithography at the Mourlot printing works in Paris. This technique proved to be an ideal means of expression for Matisse, whose spontaneous line on the lithographic stone can be found in both his paintings and drawings. In the 1930s, Matisse showed great rigor in his painting. He worked particularly on the integration of figures in space, and the interplay of thickness and color, producing several versions of his paintings, such as The striped dress. In 1941, the painter fell ill, forcing him to stop traveling. To continue painting, he worked with his nurse Monique Bourgeois as a model, and began the series Jazz with cut-out gouache. Towards the end of his life, Matisse moved ever closer to abstraction in both his paintings and sculptures. In 1952, the Matisse Museum was inaugurated in his hometown. He painted his last picture in 1954, entitled The King's Sadnessbefore his death on November 3. He enjoyed great success during his lifetime, being awarded the Légion d'Honneur in 1925 and the Carnegie Prize in 1927.