Biography and information

Henri Emile Benoit Matisse (December 31,1869, Le Cateau-Cambrésis, France - November 4, 1954, Nice, France), a painter, illustrator, sculptor, collagist, one of the most prominent art figures of modern times, whose career as an artist had a long span of almost 60 years, his complete works consisting of various styles and techniques, and who is primarily known for accentuating colour as a means of construction, in order to achieve “balance, purity and serenity.”

Attributes of his Work:

In the beginning, Matisse was under the impact of Impressionism and Post-Impressionism art movements, and he greatly appreciated artists such as Cezanne, Gauguin and Van Gogh, who tried to break away from Academism and precise, descriptive approach. He didn’t aim at a mere representation of objects, but things seen at their substantial core. After vacationing in South France, his colours became much brighter and vivid – a trademark of his complete works. He became close to the pointillism and some of his most famous pieces such as Luxury, peace and pleasure were painted in this manner. Matisse also developed his own way of colour dynamics. He was the leading figure of Fauvism movement, and later turned more to abstract art.

Famous Works:

The most prominent works of the Fauvistic period are Woman in hat, Look at Notre Dame in the late afternoon, Dance I, also the nude representation of exotic female personas like the one in Odalisque. He explored the collage field, setting for simplified, and yet very vigorous moving figures - Blue Nude and The swimmer in the aquarium. Matisse’s thriving came to its peaks in his design for the Chapel of the Rosary in the town of Vence.

The Early Life of the Artist:

The famous French painter came from the northern part of the country and was raised in a small town called Bohain-en-Vermandois. The whole area was well-known for its weaving and textile industry, and colour schemes and textile prints influenced the boy from an early age on. His father Emile was a grain shop owner, and his mother Anna Heloise Gerard was in custody of a part of the family shop that sold house paints and had a refined sense of arranging nuances. But in his early life, little Henri had no interest for art, and he was educated to become a lawyer. His artistic career came in as an outburst - he had an appendectomy surgery, and as he was recovering, his mother gave him a tint set and brushes to pass time. In his biography, he stated that he then knew that he would become an artist. He later studied under the painter Gustave Moreau.


At Salon d’Automne in 1905, Derain, Marquet, Vlaminck, Rouault, Braque and Matisse exhibited artworks that were strongly opposed to Impressionism, Academism, and rigid rules of a realistic scenery. The whole group was named Fauvist in the Gil Blas magazine after the Salon exhibit for their bestial, ferocious style. Although they didn’t have a group proclamation, they did, however, have a similar approach to art, using luminous colours, applied in a very energetic manner, directly from the colour tube. They had no need for perspective and foreshortening, for they wanted to create a new and independent space on the canvas, and the figures were marked with dark contours. The subjects of the Fauvist paintings were taken from the vast world around, historical facts or mythical heroes didn’t fit into their themes. The forms were also reduced in order to have the raw emotional effect on the spectator. The inclining towards abstract art and geometrical forms influenced Matisse immensely and will become his preoccupation in the final years of his life. Fauvism period lasted until around 1908 when the group dissolved, and the members took new artistic directions – Matisse went for more poetical expression and plain shapes and figures, and Braque took part in defining Cubism with Picasso.

Abstract Art and Cut-outs:

Matisse travelled a lot, enjoying the sights of Italy and Giotto’s frescoes, French Riviera, the blask of the Tahitian sun, the new world of the United States, but it seems like nothing touched him so intensely the way trip to Africa and Morocco did. From that moment on, the artist turned to more decorative patterns, almost arabesque-like, under the influence of the Islamic ornament. In his final decade, Matisse discovered cut-out technique, turning more and more to abstract art forms. He used to cut already painted paper into large and magnificent shapes, then pin it to the wallpaper all around his room, creating his own garden and swimming-pool.
Family Life and Death:

Matisse got his first child, a daughter named Marguerite, with one of his models. He later married Amelie Noellie Parayre and two sons joined the family. In later life, Matisse had numerous young assistances for whom he cared for, but there were no facts of affairs. However, his close relationship with Lydia Delectorskaya had led to divorce after 40 years of marriage. He died of a heart attack, with his daughter and Lydia by his side.