31 December 1869; Le Cateau-Cambrésis, Nord, France
03 November 1954; Nice, Alpes-Maritimes, France
1890 - 1954
Henri Matisse was a French painter, draftsman, sculptor, and printmaker. Known for his use of color, his work is regarded as responsible for laying the foundation for modern plastic arts, along with the work of Pablo Picasso and Marcel Duchamp. At the age of 18, he went to study law, working as a court administrator. But, after a bout of appendicitis, during which his mother gave him paints and an easel to pass the time, he began drawing, soon leaving law school to pursue his art career, to the dismay of his father.
He was exposed to the works of Van Gogh, who was practically unknown at the time, in 1897 and 1898, when he visited his friend, painter John Peter Russell, in the island of Belle Ile, which totally changed his painting style. A lover of all art, he immersed himself in the work of his fellow painters, and often got himself into debt buying the work of other artists. He received much inspiration from the work of other artists as well, drawing inspiration from such varied sources as Japanese art, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, and Pointillism.
His work, characterized as “fauvre,” or wild, often met with harsh criticism, which made it hard for him to provide for his wife and children. Due to vehement hatred of his works, his Blue Nude was burned in 1913 at an Armory Exhibition in Chicago. Although he had harsh critics, he had loving followers, including Gertrude Stein and her family. Throughout the years of 1907-1911, his friends organized and financed an art school, Academie Matisse, in which Matisse could instruct young artists.
In his later life, Matisse, who was partially reliant on a wheelchair, continued his artistic endeavors in creating cut paper collages, and working as a graphic artist. He also published Jazz in 1947, a collection of his printed and written works. Before his death of a heart attack, he established a museum of his own works, which has helped establish his legacy as a leading figure in the modern art movement.