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Encyclopedia > Matisse
Self-Portrait in a Striped T-shirt (1906).

Henri Matisse (December 31, 1869 - November 3, 1954) was the leading French artist of the 20th century. Particularly noted for his striking use of colour, Matisse is one of the very few indisputable giants of modern art, alongside Picasso and Kandinsky.

He was born Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse in Le Cateau-Cambrésis, Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France, and 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 Odilon Redon and Gustave Moreau.

Influenced by the works of Edouard Manet, Paul Signac and Paul Cézanne, and also by traditional Japanese art, he painted in the Fauvist manner, becoming known as a leader of that movement. His first exhibition was in 1901 and his first solo exhibition in 1904. His fondess 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, his paintings marked by having the colours 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 Montparnasse.

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 papiers découpés, often of some size, which still demonstrated his eye for colour and geometry.

Working in a number of modes, but principally as a painter, Matisse was one of the few artists who achieved widespread fame during their lifetime. Today, a Matisse painting can sell for 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.

Partial list of works

  • Notre-Dame, une fin d'après-midi (1902),
  • Green Stripe (1905),
  • The Open Window (1905),
  • Le bonheur de vivre (1906),
  • Madras Rouge (1907),
  • The Dessert: Harmony in Red (1908),
  • The Conversation (1909),
  • Dance (1910),
  • L'Atelier Rose (1911),
  • Zorah on the Terrace (1912),
  • Le Rifain assis (1912),
  • La lecon de musique (1917),
  • The Painter and His Model (1917),
  • Interior At Nice (1920),
  • Odalisque with Raised Arms (1923),
  • Yellow Odalisque (1926),
  • Robe violette et Anemones (1937),
  • Le Reve de 1940 (1940),
  • Deux fillettes, fond jaune et rouge (1947),
  • Jazz (1947),
  • Chapelle du Saint-Marie du Rosaire (1948, completed in 1951),
  • Beasts of the Sea (1950),
  • L'Escargot (1953).


  • Hilary Spurling "The Unknown Matisse: A Life of Henri Matisse", Vol. 1, 1869-1908. London: Hamish Hamilton Ltd, 1998, ISBN 0679434283
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Henri Matisse

  Results from FactBites:
WebMuseum: Matisse, Henri (-Émile-Benoît) (1236 words)
Matisse, like Raphael, was a born leader and taught and encouraged other painters, while Picasso, like Michelangelo, inhibited them with his power: he was a natural czar.
In 1941 Matisse was diagnosed as having duodenal cancer and was permanently confined to a wheelchair.
Matisse's Fauvist years were superseded by an experimental period, as he abandoned three-dimensional effects in favor of dramatically simplified areas of pure color, flat shape, and strong pattern.
Henri Matisse (1718 words)
Matisse never made a didactic painting or signed a manifesto, and there is scarcely one reference to a political event - let alone an expression of political opinion - to be found anywhere in his writings.
Matisse is said to have got the idea for it in Collioure in 1905, watching some fishermen and peasants on the beach in a circular dance called a sardana.
Matisse loved pattern, and pattern within pattern: not only the suave and decorative forms of his own compositions but also the reproduction of tapestries, embroideries, silks, striped awnings, curlicues, mottles, dots, and spots, the bright clutter of over-furnished rooms, within the painting.
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