Photo of Henri Matisse by Carl Van Vechten, 1933.
Birth name Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse
Born 31 December 1869 (1869-12-31)
Le Cateau-Cambrésis, Nord-Pas-de-Calais
Died 3 November 1954 (1954-11-04) (aged 84)
Field painting, printmaking, sculpture, drawing, collage
Training Académie Julian, William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Gustave Moreau
Movement Fauvism, Modernism
Works Woman with a Hat (Madame Matisse), 1905
* Museum of Modern Art
Patrons Gertrude Stein, Etta Cone, Claribel Cone, Michael and Sarah Stein, Albert C. Barnes
Influenced by John Peter Russell, Cézanne, Gauguin, van Gogh, Signac
Henri Matisse (31 December 1869 – 3 November 1954) was a French artist, known for his use of colour and his fluid, brilliant and original draughtsmanship. As a draughtsman, printmaker, and sculptor, but principally as a painter, Matisse is one of the best-known artists of the 20th century. Although he was initially labeled as a Fauve (wild beast), by the 1920s, he was increasingly hailed as an upholder of the classical tradition in French painting. 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.
Early life and education
Woman Reading, 1894, Museum of Modern Art, Paris
A Glimpse of Notre-Dame in the Late Afternoon, 1902, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York
Born Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse in Le Cateau-Cambrésis, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France, he grew up in Bohain-en-Vermandois in Northeastern France, where his parents owned a seed business. He was their first son. In 1887 he went to Paris to study law, working as a court administrator in Le Cateau-Cambrésis after gaining his qualification. He first started to paint in 1889, when his mother had brought him art supplies during a period of convalescence following an attack of appendicitis. He discovered "a kind of paradise" as he later described it, and decided to become an artist, deeply disappointing his father. In 1891 he returned to Paris to study art at the Académie Julian and became a student of William-Adolphe Bouguereau and Gustave Moreau. Initially he painted still-lifes and landscapes in the traditional Flemish style, at which he achieved reasonable proficiency. Chardin was one of Matisse's most admired painters; as an art student he made copies of four Chardin paintings in the Louvre. In 1896 he exhibited 5 paintings in the salon of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, and the state bought two of his paintings.In 1897 and 1898, he visited the painter John Peter Russell on the island Belle Île off the coast of Brittany. Russell introduced him to Impressionism and to the work of 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."
Matisse was influenced by the works of Nicolas Poussin, Antoine Watteau, Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, Edouard Manet, and the post-Impressionists Cézanne, Gauguin, van Gogh, and Signac, and also by Auguste Rodin, and Japanese art. Matisse immersed himself in the work of others and got in debt from buying work from many of the painters he admired. The work he hung and displayed in his home included a plaster bust by Rodin, a painting by Gauguin, a drawing by van Gogh, and most importantly, Cézanne's Three Bathers. In Cézanne's sense of pictorial structure and colour Matisse found his main inspiration. Many of his paintings from 1899 to 1905 make use of a pointillist technique adopted from Signac. In 1898, he went to London to study the paintings of J. M. W. Turner and then went on a trip to Corsica.
With the model Caroline Joblau, he had a daughter, Marguerite, born in 1894. In 1898 he married Amélie Noellie Parayre; the two raised Marguerite together and had two sons, Jean (born 1899) and Pierre (born 1900). Marguerite often served as a model for Matisse.
Woman with a Hat, 1905. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
His first solo exhibition was at Vollard's gallery in 1904, without much success. His fondness for bright and expressive colour became more pronounced after he moved southwards in 1905 to work with André Derain and spent time on the French Riviera. The paintings of this period are characterized by flat shapes and controlled lines, with expression dominant over detail.
In 1905, Matisse and a group of artists now known as "Fauves" exhibited together in a room at the Salon d'Automne. The paintings expressed emotion with wild, often dissonant colours, without regard for the subject's natural colours. Matisse showed Open Window and Woman with the Hat at the Salon. Critic Louis Vauxcelles described the work with the phrase "Donatello au milieu des fauves!" (Donatello among the wild beasts), referring to a Renaissance-type sculpture that shared the room with them. His comment was printed on 17 October 1905 in Gil Blas, a daily newspaper, and passed into popular usage.The pictures gained considerable condemnation, such as "A pot of paint has been flung in the face of the public" from the critic Camille Mauclair, but also some favourable attention. The painting that was singled out for attacks was Matisse's Woman with a Hat, which was bought by Gertrude and Leo Stein: this had a very positive effect on Matisse, who was suffering demoralization from the bad reception of his work.
Les toits de Collioure, 1905, oil on canvas, The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia
Matisse was recognized as a leader of the group, along with André Derain; the two were friendly rivals, each with his own followers. Other members were Georges Braque, Raoul Dufy and Maurice de Vlaminck. The Symbolist painter Gustave Moreau was the movement's inspirational teacher, and he did much for the era; a professor at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, he pushed his students to think outside of the lines of formality and to follow their visions.
In 1907 Apollinaire, commenting about Matisse in an article published in La Falange, said, "We are not here in the presence of an extravagant or an extremist undertaking: Matisse's art is eminently reasonable."
But Matisse's work of the time also encountered vehement criticism, and it was difficult for him to provide for his family. His controversial 1907 painting Nu bleu was burned in effigy at the Armory Show in Chicago in 1913.
The decline of the Fauvist movement, after 1906, did nothing to affect the rise of Matisse; 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 Montparnasse, even though he did not quite fit in, with his conservative appearance and strict bourgeois work habits.
Matisse had a long association with the Russian art collector Sergei Shchukin. He created one of his major works La Danse specially for Shchukin as part of a two painting commission, the other painting being Music, 1910. An earlier version of La Danse (1909) is in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Gertrude Stein, Académie Matisse, and the Cone sisters
The Dessert: Harmony in Red, 1908, Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg
Around 1904 he met Pablo Picasso, who was 12 years younger than him. The two became life-long friends as well as rivals and are often compared; one key difference between them is that Matisse drew and painted from nature, while Picasso was much more inclined to work from imagination. The subjects painted most frequently by both artists were women and still life, with Matisse more likely to place his figures in fully realized interiors. Matisse and Picasso were first brought together at the Paris salon of Gertrude Stein and her companion Alice B. Toklas. During the first decade of the 20th century, Americans in Paris Gertrude Stein, her brothers Leo Stein, Michael Stein and Michael's wife Sarah were important collectors and supporters of Matisse's paintings. In addition Gertrude Stein's two American friends from Baltimore , Clarabel and Etta Cone, became major patrons of Matisse and Picasso, collecting hundreds of their paintings. The Cone collection is now exhibited in the Baltimore Museum of Art.
His friends organized and financed the Académie Matisse in Paris, a private and non-commercial school in which Matisse instructed young artists. It operated from 1907 until 1911. Hans Purrmann and Sarah Stein were amongst several of his most loyal students.
The Painter and His Model, oil on canvas, 1917, Museum of Modern Art, Paris
In 1917 Matisse relocated to Cimiez on the French Riviera, a suburb of the city of Nice. His work of the decade or so following this relocation shows a relaxation and a softening of his approach. This "return to order" is characteristic of much art of the post-World War I period, and can be compared with the neoclassicism of Picasso and Stravinsky, and the return to traditionalism of Derain. His orientalist odalisque paintings are characteristic of the period; while popular, some contemporary critics found this work shallow and decorative.
After 1930 a new vigor and bolder simplification appear in his work. American art collector Albert C. Barnes convinced him to produce a large mural for the Barnes Foundation, The Dance II, which was completed in 1932. The Foundation owns several dozen other Matisse paintings.
He and his wife of 41 years separated in 1939. In 1941 he underwent surgery where a colostomy was performed. Afterwards, he started using a wheelchair. Until his death he would be cared for by a Russian woman, Lydia Delektorskaya, formerly one of his models. With the aid of assistants he set about creating cut paper collages, often on a large scale, called gouaches découpés. His Blue Nudes series feature prime examples of this technique he called "painting with scissors"; they demonstrate the ability to bring his eye for colour and geometry to a new medium of utter simplicity, but with playful and delightful power.
In 1947 he published Jazz, a limited-edition book containing prints of colorful paper cut collages, accompanied by his written thoughts. 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 famous Mourlot Studios in Paris.
Matisse, thoroughly unpolitical, was shocked when he heard that his daughter Marguerite, who had been active in the Résistance during the war, was tortured and imprisoned in the Ravensbrück concentration camp.
Tombstone of Henri Matisse and his wife Noellie, cemetery of the Monastère Notre Dame de Cimiez, Cimiez, France
In 1951 he finished a four-year project of designing the interior, the glass windows and the decorations of the Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence. This project was the result of the close friendship between Matisse and Sister Jacques-Marie. He had hired her as a nurse and model in 1941 before she became a Dominican Nun and they met again in Vence and started the collaboration, a story related in her 1992 book Henri Matisse: La Chapelle de Vence and in the 2003 documentary "A Model for Matisse".
Matisse died of a heart attack at the age of 84 in 1954. He is interred in the cemetery of the Monastère Notre Dame de Cimiez, near Nice. A museum dedicated to his work was opened nearby in 1952, just before his death, and is now the third-largest collection of Matisse works in France.
The Plum Blossoms, 1948, Museum of Modern Art, New York City
The Back Series, bronze, left to right: The Back I, 1908-09, The Back II, 1913, The Back III 1916, The Back IV, c. 1931, all Museum of Modern Art, New York City
The first painting of Matisse acquired by a public collection was Still Life with Geraniums (1910), exhibited in the Pinakothek der Moderne. Today, a Matisse painting can fetch as much as US $17 million. In 2002, a Matisse sculpture, Reclining Nude I (Dawn), sold for US $9.2 million, a record for a sculpture by the artist.
The Plum Blossoms a 1948 painting by Henri Matisse, was purchased on September 8, 2005, for the Museum of Modern Art by Henry Kravis and the new president of the museum, Marie-Josée Drouin. Estimated price was US $25 million. Previously, it had not been seen by the public since 1970.
Matisse's daughter Marguerite often aided Matisse scholars with insights about his working methods and his works. She died in 1982 while compiling a catalog of her father's work.
Matisse's son, Pierre Matisse, (1900-1989) opened an important modern art gallery in New York City during the 1930s. The Pierre Matisse Gallery which was active from 1931 until 1989 represented and exhibited many European artists and a few Americans and Canadians in New York often for the first time. He exhibited Joan Miró, Marc Chagall, Alberto Giacometti, Jean Dubuffet, André Derain, Yves Tanguy, Le Corbusier, Paul Delvaux, Wifredo Lam, Jean-Paul Riopelle, Balthus, Leonora Carrington, Zao Wou Ki, Sam Francis, sculptors Theodore Roszak, Raymond Mason and Reg Butler, and several other important artists, including the work of Henri Matisse.
Henri Matisse's grandson, Paul Matisse, is an artist and inventor living in Massachusetts. Matisse's great granddaughter Sophie Matisse is active as an artist in 2009. Les Heritiers Matisse functions as his official Estate. The U.S. copyright representative for Les Heritiers Matisse is the Artists Rights Society.
Luxe, Calme et Volupté, 1904, Musée National d'Art Moderne.
Le bonheur de vivre, 1905-6, Barnes Foundation, Merion, PA
Open Window, Collioure, 1905, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
Portrait of Madame Matisse (The green line), 1905, Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, Denmark
Self-Portrait in a Striped T-shirt 1906, Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, Denmark
The Young Sailor II, 1906, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
Blue Nude (Souvenir de Biskra), 1907, Baltimore Museum of Art
Madras Rouge, 1907, Barnes Foundation
Bathers with a Turtle, 1908, Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis
The Dance (second version), 1910 Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
Still Life with Geraniums, 1910, Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich, Germany
L'Atelier Rouge, 1911, oil on canvas, 162 x 130 cm., The Museum of Modern Art, New York City
The Conversation, c.1911, The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia
Le Rifain assis, 1912-13, 200 x 160 cm. Barnes Foundation, Merion, PA
Zorah on the Terrace, 1912, oil on canvas, 116 x 100 cm., The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, Russia
Window at Tangier, 1912, The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow
View of Notre-Dame, 1914, Museum of Modern Art
French Window at Collioure, 1914. Art Institute of Chicago
Woman on a High Stool, 1914, Museum of Modern Art, New York City
The Yellow Curtain, 1915, Museum of Modern Art New York City
Odalisque with Raised Arms, 1923, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
Woman in a Purple Coat, 1937, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas
Annelies, White Tulips and Anemones, 1944, Honolulu Academy of Arts, Honolulu, Hawaii
Deux fillettes, fond jaune et rouge (Two Girls in a Yellow and Red Interior), 1947, Barnes Foundation,Merion, PA
The Knife Thrower, 1947, from Jazz, print from paper collage
Beasts of the Sea, 1950, paper collage on canvas, collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC.
Black Leaf on Green Background, 1952, gouache découpée, The Menil Collection, Houston, Texas
Blue Nude II, 1952, gouache découpée, Pompidou Centre, Paris
La Négresse, 1952/1953, Lithograph after a gouache découpée, Pompidou Centre, Paris
The Sorrows of the King, 1952, Gouache on paper and canvas, Pompidou Centre, Paris
The Snail, 1953, Gouache on paper, cut and pasted, on white paper, collection Tate Gallery
Partial list of works
* Woman Reading (1894), Museum of Modern Art, Paris
* Le Mur Rose (1898), Museum of Modern Art, Paris
* Notre-Dame, une fin d'après-midi (1902), Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York
* The green line (1905)
* The Open Window (1905)
* Woman with a Hat (1905)
* Les toits de Collioure (1905)
* Landscape at Collioure (1905)
* Le bonheur de vivre (1906)
* The Young Sailor II (1906)
* Self-Portrait in a Striped T-shirt (1906)
* Madras Rouge (1907)
* Blue Nude (Souvenir de Biskra) (1907), Baltimore Museum of Art
* The Dessert: Harmony in Red (The Red Room) (1908)
* Bathers with a Turtle (1908), Saint Louis Art Museum, Missouri
* La Danse (1909)
* Still Life with Geraniums (1910)
* L'Atelier Rouge (1911)
* The Conversation (1908–1912)
* Zorah on the Terrace (1912)
* Le Rifain assis (1912)
* Window at Tangier (1912)
* Le rideau jaune (the yellow curtain) (1915)
* The Window (1916), Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan
* La leçon de musique (1917)
* The Painter and His Model (1917)
* Interior A Nice (1920)
* Odalisque with Raised Arms (1923), National Gallery of Art, Washington
* Yellow Odalisque (1926)
* The Dance II (1932), triptych mural (45 ft by 15 ft) in the Barnes Foundation of Philadelphia
* Robe violette et Anémones (1937)
* Woman in a Purple Coat (1937)
* Le Rêve de 1940 (the dream of 1940) (1940)
* La Blouse Roumaine (1940)
* Le Lanceur De Couteaux (1943)
* Annelies, White Tulips and Anemones (1944), Honolulu Academy of Arts
* L'Asie (1946)
* Deux fillettes, fond jaune et rouge (1947)
* Jazz (1947)
* The Plum Blossoms (1948)
* Chapelle du Saint-Marie du Rosaire (1948 - 1951)
* Beasts of the Sea (1950)
* The Sorrows of the King (1952)
* Black Leaf on Green Background (1952)
* La Négresse (1952)
* Blue Nude II (1952)
* The Snail (1953)
* Le Bateau (1954) (This gouache created a minor stir when the MoMA mistakenly displayed it upside-down for 47 days in 1961.)
* Notes of a Painter,1908
* Painter's Notes on Drawing ,1930.
* Jazz, 1947
* Matisse on Art, collected by Jack D. Flam, 1973. ISBN 0714815187