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Henri Matisse

*31 December 1869 in Le Cateau-Cambrésis, France

+3 November 1954 in Nice, France

Biography

The French painter, printmaker, sculptor and draughtsman, Henri Matisse was born in 1869 in Le Cateau-Cambrésis. He is one of the most important artists of classical modern art. After attending a humanistic high school, Matisse first devoted himself to studying law. After two years of study, he found a position as a paralegal in Saint-Quentin. The artist practised this profession for a year until an appendectomy tied him to his bed for a year. To escape boredom, Matisse devoted himself to painting during this period of convalescence. In 1891, once again in full health, he turned completely to art. He received his artistic training in Paris, first at the Académie Julian and the École des Arts décoratifs and then at the École des Beaux-Arts.

After financially difficult years, he finally achieved success in 1904. Ambroise Vollard, one of the most important art dealers in France, organised his first solo exhibition for him. One year later, he exhibited together with other artists at the Salon d’Automne in Paris, works that stood out for their colourfulness and expressiveness. Critics therefore refered to this group of artists as “Les Fauves” (The Wild Ones). A trip to Algeria in 1906 inspired the painter deeply. The impressions of the country and the souvenirs he brought back, such as ceramics and textiles, find their way into his art. In his works, in the portraits, still lifes or interior scenes, ornaments and patterns appear again and again. Matisse uses his finely composed, bright colours in a two-dimensional application of paint as a creative means. Matisse’s art thrives on his enthusiasm for spaces, light and especially colour, with which and with simplified painterly means he develops his expressive compositions.

 

Around 1900 Matisse found his way to printmaking. At the beginning he worked in the technique of etching, producing over 300 etchings by 1948. At the same time, in a period from 1906 to 1952, he created lithographs, which formed the main focus of his graphic work. Matisse himself often acted as publisher of his graphic works, which over the years included over 1000 lithographs, etchings, linocuts and woodcuts. Among them are many single sheets, graphical series and illustrations for books. His editions are usually quite small, rarely does one edition exceed 50 copies. This being the reason that the signed original prints by Matisse are rare and valuable on the international art market.

 

At an advanced age, the artist is severely restricted by an illness, so that he limits himself to the technique of collage, an easy to handle form of expression. Henri Matisse died in 1954, at the age of 85 in Nice.