Henri Matisse, 1933
Henri Matisse, born on le décembre 1869
was the leading French artist of the XX ème siecle
. Particularly noted for his striking use of color, Matisse is one of the very few indisputable giants of modern painting, alongside Picasso and Kandinsky.
Born Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse in Le Chateau-Cambrésis, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France, he 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-Cambrésis. 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 Académie Julian and became a student of William-Adolphe Bouguereau and Gustave Moreau.
Influenced by the works of Paul Cézanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh and Paul Signac, and also by traditional Japanese art, he started to see color as a crucial element of composition.
The Dessert: Harmony in Red, 1908
Matisse became a leader in the school of art known as Fauvism. Fauvism, a name derived from les fauves
, wild beasts, a short-lived and loose grouping of early Modern artists whose works emphasized painterly qualities, and the use of deep color over the representational values retained by Impressionism. Fauvists simplified lines, made the subject of the painting easy to read, exaggerated perspectives and used brilliant but arbitrary colors. They also emphasised freshness and spontaneity over finish.
One of the fundamentals of the Fauves was expressed in 1888 by Paul Gauguin to Paul Sérusier, "How do you see these trees? They are yellow. So, put in yellow; this shadow, rather blue, paint it with pure ultramarine; these red leaves? Put in vermilion."
The name "wild beasts"was given (humourously) to the group by art critic Louis Vauxelles. The painter Gustave Moreau was the movement's inspirational teacher, and a professor at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris who pushed his students to think outside of the lines of formality and to follow their visions.
The art of Matisse 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 interested 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.
Blue Nude II, 1952
His first exhibition was in 1901 and his first solo exhibition in 1904. His fondess for bright and expressive color became more pronounced after he moved southwards in 1905 to work with André Derain and spent time on the French Riviera, his paintings marked by having the colors 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 the Montparnasse
area of Paris.
He was a friend as well as rival of the younger Pablo Picasso, and the two artists are often compared with each other.
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 gouaches découpés, often of some size, which demonstrated his ability to transpose his eye for colour and geometry into a new medium of utter simplicity but with playful and delightful power.
Working in a number of modes, but principally as a painter, Matisse achieved widespread fame during his lifetime. Today, a Matisse painting can sell for as much as $17,000,000. In 2002, a Matisse sculpture, "Reclining Nude I (Dawn)," sold for $9,200,000, a record for a sculpture by the artist.
Cancer claimed Matisse on le 3 novembre 1954
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Matisse the Master: A Life of Henri Matisse, the Conquest of Colour, 1909-1954
The Unknown Matisse