Henri Matisse life and biography

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Henri Matisse biography

Date of birth : 1869-12-31
Date of death : 1954-11-03
Birthplace : Le Cateau-Cambrésis, France
Nationality : French
Category : Arts and Entertainment
Last modified : 2010-05-12
Credited as : Artist sculptor and painter, Still Life with Geranium, Notes of a Painter

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Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse (31 December 1869 – 3 November 1954) was a French artist, known for 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 regarded, along with Picasso and Marcel Duchamp, as one of the three seminal artists of the 20th century, responsible for significant developments in painting and sculpture. Although he was initially labelled 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.

Using colors, contrasts, and the human form in his works, Henri Matisse went down in history as one of the world’s greatest artists for his sculptures, paintings, and paper renditions. His later work in France was inspired by his visits to Italy, Morocco, and other countries in Africa. Ironically, his paintings and work presently sell for millions, but in his own time, he found it difficult to support his family and children.

Until he was around the age of twenty, he did not do much in the way of art. He worked as a court administrator and after being bedridden for appendicitis; he found art would pass his time, as if he were in ‘paradise’. He knew his calling and by the next year decided to go to Paris to study at the Academie Julian. Inspired by the works of the time, namely by post-impressionism, he always focused on the importance and ability of color to speak to the painter and the viewer. He often used pointillist techniques at the turn of the century.

He then moved to the French Riviera to work with a group of artists who became known as the Fauves or Wild Beasts for their flat, distinct work using symmetric lines that were to be expressive and non-detailed. Following this stint, he moved to Montparnasse. He then moved and lived outside of Nice so he could be close to the Riviera. Throughout World War I, he lived there painting. After the war, his paintings revealed a return to something concrete, subdued, and physical in nature – something quite common in artistic circles of the day as artists also searched for answers to a war that had taken so much and so many.

His paintings Still Life with Geranium and Reclining Nude I are some of his most recognized works. It was his travels, however, to Spain, Germany, Russia, and Africa that would affect the painter’s work. By 1920, he had become a world-renowned artist and was commissioned by several prominent figures to complete murals, sculptures, and to give presentations. In his art, he fought against technology and vied for a return to something simpler and more expressive. Islamic art in particular influenced him to create decoration instead of human figures, as seen for example, in his sculpture Odalisque with Raised Arms.


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 as of 2010. Les Heritiers Matisse functions as his official Estate. The U.S. copyright representative for Les Heritiers Matisse is the Artists Rights Society.

Partial list of works

* Woman Reading (1894), Musée National d'Art Moderne Paris
* Le Mur Rose (1898), Musée National d'Art Moderne
* Notre-Dame, une fin d'après-midi (1902), Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York
* Green Stripe (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, D.C.
* 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 0-7148-1518-7

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