Henri Matisse


Born in 1869 in the Picardy region of northern France, Matisse was the son of a grain merchant. He studied law and worked as a law clerk in Paris. When Henri Matisse was 21 years old he became seriously ill. During this phase of convalescence Matisse started painting and discovered his love for art, which became his life-long passion.

Two years later, in 1892, he gave up his career as a lawyer. He attended art classes at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and dabbled in different styles. He then was influenced by the Impressionists and Post-impressionist painters Pissaro, Cezanne, van Gogh and Paul Signac and by the paintings of W. Turner.

Around the year 1905 he finally found his own style characterized by daring, bright colors executed in a broad brush stroke. From 1905 to 1906 Matisse painted one of his best paintings, ‘The Joy of Life’. It is considered to be one of the most important works of Twenty Century art and was bought by the famous art collector Dr. Albert C. Barnes. This painting and the whole Barnes collection was veiled from the public for 72 years. Finally The Barnes Foundation was opened to the art world again in 1993 and can be viewed outside Philadelphia.

After World War 1, Matisse had gained a high reputation and was an internationally recognized artist. In 1917 he left Paris and settled in Nice in the South of France where he remained until the end of his life. In 1925 he received the French Legion of Honor award.

In 1941 Matisse had abdominal cancer surgery which had a devastating effect on his health and ability to paint. He was unable to stand upright in front of an easel. The artist therefore turned to another form of artistic expression. He created paper cut-outs in the same vivid, strong colors and daring compositions known from his paintings.

Henri Matisse died on November 3, 1954 in Nice as an internationally renowned and highly reputable artist. He had continued creating paper cutout works until the day of his death. Pablo Picasso once said about the artist: “All things considered, there is only Matisse”.