Henri Matisse was a French artist, known for both his use of colour and his fluid and original draughtsmanship. He was a draughtsman, printmaker, and sculptor, but is known primarily as a painter. Matisse is commonly regarded, along with Pablo Picasso, as one of the artists who best helped to define the revolutionary developments in the visual arts throughout the opening decades of the twentieth century, responsible for significant developments in painting and sculpture.
Born in the North of France into a family of a successful grain merchant, but his mother was engaged in painting ceramics. As the eldest son, he was supposed to inherit the family business, however, he went to Paris to study law, after which he returned home and began his law practice. A year later, he had an attack of appendicitis, which became a turning point in his life – during rehabilitation, his mother bought him drawing supplies and he first tried himself in painting by copying colored postcards. Having become interested in this occupation, despite his father’s persuasion, he enters a drawing school, finishes his legal practice and goes to Paris again. He enters the Académie Juliane, where he studies with artists and tries out various educational institutions, eventually ends up with Gustave Moreau at the National School of Fine Arts. There he meets artists who will later become his associates. During his studies, he copied paintings at the Louvre – especially at this time he was influenced by Chardin – he copied four of his paintings. In 1896, he met the artist Russell, whom he would later call his teacher. After a few years, he begins to study sculpture.
The beginning of the XX century was a period of searching for a creative path for Matisse – he studies the work of other artists. After a group exhibition, several of his works are bought. Next, there was his personal exhibition, which, however, was not successful.
The intense colorism of the works he painted between 1900 and 1905 brought him notoriety as one of the Fauves (wild beasts). Many of his finest works were created in the decade or so after 1906, when he developed a rigorous style that emphasized flattened forms and decorative pattern. His financial difficulties were solved with the purchase of his works by Russian collectors Morozov and Shchukin.
In 1917, he relocated to a suburb of Nice on the French Riviera, and the more relaxed style of his work during the 1920s gained him critical acclaim as an upholder of the classical tradition in French painting. . In 1920, he worked with Diaghilev and at the same time became world-famous – his exhibitions were held in Europe and America.
After 1930, he adopted a bolder simplification of form. When ill health in his final years prevented him from painting, he created an important body of work in the medium of cut paper collage. Matisse dies of a heart attack, having lived almost 100 years.
His mastery of the expressive language of colour and drawing, displayed in a body of work spanning over a half-century, won him recognition as a leading figure in modern art.