Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse (31 December 1869 – 3 November 1954) was a French artist, known for both 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 commonly regarded, along with Pablo Picasso, as one of the artists who best helped to define the revolutionary developments in the visual arts throughout the opening decades of the twentieth 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.
Early life and education
Henri and Amélie Matisse, 1898
Woman Reading, 1894, Museum of Modern Art, Paris
Matisse was born in Le Cateau-Cambrésis, in the Nord department in northern France, the oldest son of a prosperous grain merchant. He grew up in Bohain-en-Vermandois, Picardie, France. In 1887 he went to Paris to study law, working as a court administrator in Le Cateau-Cambrésis after gaining his qualification. He first started to paint in 1889, after his mother brought him art supplies during a period of convalescence following an attack of appendicitis. He discovered "a kind of paradise" as he later described it,and decided to become an artist, deeply disappointing his father.
In 1891 he returned to Paris to study art at the Académie Julian and became a student of William-Adolphe Bouguereau and Gustave Moreau. Initially he painted still lifes and landscapes in a traditional style, at which he achieved reasonable proficiency. Matisse was influenced by the works of earlier masters such as Jean-Baptiste-Siméon Chardin, Nicolas Poussin, and Antoine Watteau, as well as by modern artists, such as Édouard Manet, and by Japanese art. Chardin was one of the painters Matisse most admired; as an art student he made copies of four of Chardin's paintings in the Louvre.
In 1896 and 1897, Matisse visited the Australian painter John Peter Russell on the island Belle Île off the coast of Brittany. Russell introduced him to Impressionism and to the work of van Gogh, who had been a friend of Russell but was completely unknown at the time. Matisse's style changed completely. He later said "Russell was my teacher, and Russell explained colour art to me." In 1896 Matisse exhibited five paintings in the salon of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, two of which were purchased by the state.
With the model Caroline Joblau, he had a daughter, Marguerite, born in 1894. In 1898 he married Amélie Noellie Parayre; the two raised Marguerite together and had two sons, Jean (born 1899) and Pierre (born 1900). Marguerite and Amélie often served as models for Matisse.
In 1898, on the advice of Camille Pissarro, he went to London to study the paintings of J. M. W. Turner and then went on a trip to Corsica.Upon his return to Paris in February 1899, he worked beside Albert Marquet and met André Derain, Jean Puy,and Jules Flandrin. Matisse immersed himself in the work of others and went into debt from buying work from painters he admired. The work he hung and displayed in his home included a plaster bust by Rodin, a painting by Gauguin, a drawing by van Gogh, and Cézanne's Three Bathers. In Cézanne's sense of pictorial structure and colour, Matisse found his main inspiration.
Many of Matisse's paintings from 1898 to 1901 make use of a Divisionist technique he adopted after reading Paul Signac's essay, "D'Eugène Delacroix au Néo-impressionisme".His paintings of 1902–03, a period of material hardship for the artist, are comparatively somber and reveal a preoccupation with form. Having made his first attempt at sculpture, a copy after Antoine-Louis Barye, in 1899, he devoted much of his energy to working in clay, completing The Slave in 1903.
Gustave Moreau's Studio, 1894-1895
Blue Pot and Lemon (1897), Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
Le Mur Rose, 1898, Jewish Museum Frankfurt
Fruit and Coffeepot (1898), Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
Vase of Sunflowers (1898), Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
Study of a Nude, 1899, Bridgestone Museum of Art, Tokyo
Still Life with Compote, Apples and Oranges, 1899, The Cone Collection, Baltimore Museum of Art
Crockery on a Table (1900), Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
Main article: Fauvism
Woman with a Hat, 1905. San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Fauvism as a style began around 1900 and continued beyond 1910. The movement as such lasted only a few years, 1904–1908, and had three exhibitions.The leaders of the movement were Matisse and André Derain.Matisse's first solo exhibition was at Ambroise Vollard's gallery in 1904,without much success. His fondness for bright and expressive colour became more pronounced after he spent the summer of 1904 painting in St. Tropez with the neo-Impressionists Signac and Henri-Edmond Cross.In that year he painted the most important of his works in the neo-Impressionist style, Luxe, Calme et Volupté. In 1905 he travelled southwards again to work with André Derain at Collioure. His paintings of this period are characterised by flat shapes and controlled lines, using pointillism in a less rigorous way than before.
Matisse and a group of artists now known as "Fauves" exhibited together in a room at the Salon d'Automne in 1905. The paintings expressed emotion with wild, often dissonant colours, without regard for the subject's natural colours. Matisse showed Open Window and Woman with the Hat at the Salon. Critic Louis Vauxcelles described the work with the phrase "Donatello parmi les fauves!" (Donatello among the wild beasts), referring to a Renaissance-type sculpture that shared the room with them. His comment was printed on 17 October 1905 in Gil Blas, a daily newspaper, and passed into popular usage. The exhibition garnered harsh criticism—"A pot of paint has been flung in the face of the public", said the critic Camille Mauclair—but also some favourable attention. When the painting that was singled out for special condemnation, Matisse's Woman with a Hat, was bought by Gertrude and Leo Stein, the embattled artist's morale improved considerably.
Les toits de Collioure, 1905, oil on canvas, The Hermitage, St. Petersburg, Russia
Matisse was recognised as a leader of the Fauves, along with André Derain; the two were friendly rivals, each with his own followers. Other members were Georges Braque, Raoul Dufy, and Maurice de Vlaminck. The Symbolist painter Gustave Moreau (1826–1898) was the movement's inspirational teacher. As a professor at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, he pushed his students to think outside of the lines of formality and to follow their visions.
In 1907 Guillaume Apollinaire, commenting about Matisse in an article published in La Falange, wrote, "We are not here in the presence of an extravagant or an extremist undertaking: Matisse's art is eminently reasonable." But Matisse's work of the time also encountered vehement criticism, and it was difficult for him to provide for his family. His painting Nu bleu (1907) was burned in effigy at the Armory Show in Chicago in 1913.
The decline of the Fauvist movement after 1906 did not affect the career of Matisse; 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, even though he did not quite fit in, with his conservative appearance and strict bourgeois work habits. He continued to absorb new influences. He travelled to Algeria in 1906 studying African art and Primitivism. After viewing a large exhibition of Islamic art in art in 1910, he spent two months in Spain studying Moorish art. He visited Morocco in 1912 and again in 1913 and while painting in Tangiers he made several changes to his work, including his use of black as a colour.The effect on Matisse's art was a new boldness in the use of intense, unmodulated colour, as in L'Atelier Rouge (1911).
Matisse had a long association with the Russian art collector Sergei Shchukin. He created one of his major works La Danse specially for Shchukin as part of a two painting commission, the other painting being Music, 1910. An earlier version of La Danse (1909) is in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
Selected works: Paris, 1901–1910
Luxembourg Gardens, 1901, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
Dishes and Fruit, 1901, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
A Glimpse of Notre-Dame in the Late Afternoon, 1902, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York
Nu (Carmelita), 1904, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Luxe, Calme et Volupté, 1904, Musée d'Orsay, Paris, France
Landscape at Collioure, 1905, Museum of Modern Art
Open Window, Collioure, 1905, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Portrait of Madame Matisse (The green line), 1905, Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, Denmark
Le bonheur de vivre, 1905–6, Barnes Foundation
Self-Portrait in a Striped T-shirt 1906, Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen, Denmark
The Young Sailor II, 1906, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
Vase, Bottle and Fruit, 1906, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
Blue Nude, 1907, Baltimore Museum of Art
La coiffure, 1907, Staatsgalerie Stuttgart
Madras Rouge, The Red Turban, 1907, Barnes Foundation. Exhibited at the 1913 Armory Show
Le Luxe II, 1907–08, Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen
Les trois baigneuses (Three Bathers), 1907, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Bathers with a Turtle, 1908, Saint Louis Art Museum, St. Louis
Game of Bowls, 1908, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
The Dance (first version), 1909, The Museum of Modern Art, New York City
Still Life with Dance, 1909, Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg
The Dance, 1910, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
Les Capucines (Nasturtiums with The Dance II), 1910–12, Pushkin Museum
Music, 1910, Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia
Henri Matisse, The Back Series, bronze, left to right: The Back I, 1908–09, The Back II, 1913, The Back III 1916, The Back IV, c. 1931, all Museum of Modern Art, New York City
Henri Matisse, 1900-1904, Le Serf (The Serf, Der Sklave),
Henri Matisse, 1905, Sleep, wood, exhibition Blue Rose (Голубая Роза), 1907, location unknown
Henri Matisse, 1906–07, Nu couché, I (Reclining Nude, I), bronze, exhibited at Montross Gallery, New York, 1915
Henri Matisse, 1907, Awakening, plaster, exhibition Salon of the Golden Fleece (Салон Золотого Руна) 1908
Henri Matisse, 1908, Figure décorative, bronze
Gertrude Stein, Académie Matisse, and the Cone sisters
Henri Matisse, Red Room (Harmony in Red) (1908)
Henri Matisse in Paris, 13 August 1913. Photograph by Carl Van Vechten
Around April 1906 he met Pablo Picasso, who was 11 years younger than Matisse. The two became lifelong friends as well as rivals and are often compared. One key difference between them is that Matisse drew and painted from nature, while Picasso was much more inclined to work from imagination. The subjects painted most frequently by both artists were women and still life, with Matisse more likely to place his figures in fully realised interiors. Matisse and Picasso were first brought together at the Paris salon of Gertrude Stein and her companion Alice B. Toklas. During the first decade of the twentieth century, the Americans in Paris—Gertrude Stein, her brothers Leo Stein, Michael Stein and Michael's wife Sarah—were important collectors and supporters of Matisse's paintings. In addition Gertrude Stein's two American friends from Baltimore, the Cone sisters Claribel and Etta, became major patrons of Matisse and Picasso, collecting hundreds of their paintings and drawings. The Cone collection is now exhibited in the Baltimore Museum of Art.
Henri Matisse, The Moroccans, 1915-16, oil on canvas, 181.3 x 279.4 cm, Museum of Modern Art.