Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse was born on 31 December 1869, in Le Cateau-Cambrésis, France. He grew up in Bohain-en-Vermandois and studied law in Paris from 1887 to 1888. Matisse first started to paint in 1889, eventually abandoning law and moving to Paris to study at the Académie Julian and then at the École des Beaux-Arts with Gustave Moreau in 1891. In 1896, Matisse visited the Australian painter John Russell in Brittany, who introduced him to Impressionism and the work of Van Gogh, which would have a radical effect upon Matisse’s artistic direction.
In 1901 Matisse exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris and met another future leader of the Fauve movement, Maurice de Vlaminck. His first solo show took place at the Galerie Vollard in 1904, and in the summer of that year Matisse travelled to St. Tropez to paint alongside Paul Signac and Henri-Edmond Cross. Both Leo and Gertrude Stein, as well as Etta and Claribel Cone, began to collect Matisse’s work around this time. Following the summer in St. Tropez, Matisse abandoned the palette of the Impressionists and his previously Pointillist style, adopting his characteristic flat, brilliant colour and fluid line. His subjects were primarily women, interiors, and still lifes – though he did also paint numerous landscapes as well. Matisse exhibited at the Salon d’Automne in 1905, alongside André Derain, Maurice de Vlaminck and Kees van Dongen. The boldly coloured canvases they exhibited would birth the term Fauvism, and the following year all the Fauves would exhibit for the first time together at the Salon des Indépendents. Whilst Fauvism declined after 1906, Matisse embraced new influences, particularly from Moorish culture, which he delighted in during travels to Algeria (1906), Spain (1910) and Morocco (1912, 1913). Matisse’s orientalist subjects in his later paintings, such as his odalisques, can be traced to this period.
In 1917, Matisse relocated to Cimiez on the French Riviera. From the early 1920s until 1939, Matisse divided his time primarily between the south of France and Paris. During this period, he worked on paintings, sculptures, lithographs, and etchings, as well as on murals for the Barnes Foundation, Merion, Pennsylvania, designs for tapestries, and numerous set and costume designs, including for Léonide Massine’s ballet Rouge et noir and Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. While recuperating from two major operations in 1941 and 1942, Matisse concentrated on a technique he had devised earlier – papiers découpés (paper cutouts) – this would be his preferred medium for the final decade of his life. Jazz, written and illustrated by Matisse, was published in 1947; the plates are stencil reproductions of paper cutouts. In 1948 he began the design for the decoration of Chapelle du Rosaire in Vence, which was completed and consecrated in 1951. The same year a major retrospective of his work was presented at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and then traveled to Cleveland, Chicago, and San Francisco. In 1952 the Musée Matisse was inaugurated at the artist’s birthplace of Le Cateau–Cambrésis. Matisse continued to make large paper cutouts, the last of which was a design for the rose window at Union Church of Pocantico Hills, New York. He died on 3 November 1954, in Nice.
Matisse’s work can be found in the following selected international collections: the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Art Institute of Chicago; Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; Philadelphia Museum of Art; Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMoMA); the State Hermitage, St. Petersburg; Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow; Kunstmuseum Basel; Kunsthaus Zurich; Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Pompidou, Paris; Musée d’Orsay, Paris; Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris; Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon; the Tate Collection, London.
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