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Henri Matisse Artist Biography

Henri-mile-Benot Matisse was a French artist, known for his brightly coloured compositions full of movement and life. He was one of the founding members of the fauvists, known for their use of shocking and un-naturalistic colours. Alongside Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp, Matisse is often regarded as one of the three artists who fundamentally revolutionized art in the 20th century. Matisse was born in Le Cateau-Cambrsis, in northern France near the Belgian border. As a young man, he went to Paris to study law. He graduated in 1889 and returned home to work as a clerk in a law office. It was at this time that he had an acute attack of appendicitis, requiring surgery and a long convalescence. Matisse spent nearly all of 1890 in his bed. During his recuperation, his mother gave him a box of paints to keep him occupied. Matisses new hobby was a revelation. Having never shown any interest in art or painting, the twenty year old suddenly found his passion thanks to his mother's gift. Matisses mother, Anna Heloise, ran the section of her husband's shop that sold house paints, making up the customers' orders and advising on colour schemes. The colours evidently left a lasting impression on Henri. The artist later said he got his colour sense from his mother, who was herself an accomplished painter on porcelain. When the young Matisse returned to work, he attended drawing classes every morning before work and would paint during his lunch breaks and every night. He discovered a kind of paradise as he later described it. After a year, Matisse moved to Paris to study and eventually earned admission to the Acadmie Julian, becoming a student of William-Adolphe Bouguereau. Matisses father disapproved of his sons new career, but continued to send him a small allowance. Initially, Matisse painted still-lifes and landscapes in a more traditional Flemish style. But after a discouraging year at the Acadmie, Matisse left to train with Gustave Moreau, an artist who nurtured his progressive leanings. Matisse took his advice to develop his own style to heart, and soon his was being displayed at prestigious salons. One of his early paintings, Woman Reading, was bought for the home of the French president in 1895. However, Moreau was a painter who despised the "art du salon", so Matisse was destined, in a certain sense, to remain an "outcast" of the art world.In 1897 and 1898, he visited the painter John Peter Russell on the island Belle le off the coast of Brittany. Russell introduced him to Impressionism and to the work of Vincent Van Gogh who had been a good friend of Russell but was completely unknown at the time. Matisse's style changed completely, and he would later say "Russell was my teacher, and Russell explained colour theory to me." In 1989, on the advice of Camille Pissarro, Matisse went to London to study the paintings of J.M.W.Turner and then on a trip to Corsica. He immersed himself in the work of others and went into debt buying work from painters he admired. Influenced by the works of the post-Impressionists Paul Czanne, Paul Gauguin, Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Signac, and also by Japanese art, Matisse made colour a crucial element of his paintings. Matisse said, "In modern art, it is indubitably to Czanne that I owe the most."He hit his stride in the avant-garde art world in the first years of the new decade. By 1905, Matisse, alongside Andr Derain, was considered a spearhead of the Fauve art movement. The style was characterized by its spontaneity and roughness of execution as well as use of raw colour straight from the palette to the canvas. Matisse combined pointillist colour and Czannes way of structuring pictorial space stroke by stroke to develop Fauvism - a way less of seeing the world than of feeling it with ones eyes. Other members of the movement included Georges Braque, Raoul Dufy and Maurice de Vlaminck. The decline of the Fauvist movement after 1906 did nothing to affect the rise of Matisse. From 1906 -1917 he lived in Paris and established his home, studio, and school at Htel Biron. Among his neighbors were sculptor Auguste Rodin, writer Jean Cocteau, and dancer Isadora Duncan. Many of his finest works were created in this period, when he was an active part of the great gathering of artistic talent in Montparnasse, even though he did not quite fit in with his conservative appearance and strict bourgeois work habits.During the first decade of the 20th century Gertrude Stein, the American art collector in Paris, took keen interest in Matisse's art. In April of 1906 during a gathering at the house of the legendary Gertrude Stein, Matisse was introduced to Pablo Picasso who was 11 years younger. From then on the two were said to have always been looking over their shoulders at each other. Picasso later said: "No one has ever looked at Matisse's paintings more carefully than I; and no one has looked at mine more carefully than he." It is well-known that after their rivalry grew, sides were taken. Gertrude Stein, who loved stirring things up, wrote, "the feeling between the Picassoites and the Matisse-ites became bitter." By 1919, Matisse had become internationally known, exhibiting his work throughout Europe and in New York City. From the 1920s on, he spent much of his time in Nice in the south of France. He continued to create paintings, etchings, and sculptures. In the 1940s he also worked as a graphic artist and produced black-and-white illustrations for several books and over one hundred original lithographs at the Mourlot Studios in Paris.In 1941, after surgery for cancer, Matisse nearly died from complications. Bedridden for three months, he spent the time developing a new art form, which became one of the artist's trademark techniques. He called it "drawing with scissors," a method of cutting out shapes from painted paper, later assembling them into designs.In his last years, as he aged and fell ill, Matisse continued to paint, this time on the walls of his room, using a piece of charcoal attached to the end of a bamboo pole. He painted until his death in November 1954. His works remain a part of many private collections and are on exhibit in major museums throughout the world.Read our editorial featuring Henri Matisse: artrepublic's Best Birds

More art prints from Henri Matisse

La Gerbe By Henri Matisse
Les Patineurs By Henri Matisse
Harmony In Yellow By Henri Matisse
The Clown, From "Jazz" By Henri Matisse
Pink Nude By Henri Matisse
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