Henri Matisse (1869 – 1954)

Matisse was a Collagist, Draughtsman, Sculptor and Painter. He is celebrated for his use of colour and expressive, graphic style. Matisse was the leader of the Fauvism movement, a short lived yet significant era in art.
Born to a wealthy grain merchant in Le Cateau-Cambresis, North France, Matisse started his career training to become a lawyer. Whilst convalescing with an appendicitis, he asked his mother to buy him a box of paints to eliminate his boredom. In 1891 he abandoned the law and returned to Paris to become a professional artist. He studied at Academie Julian and started by painting landscapes and still life in the traditional style. In 1895 Matisse discovered the delights of the coast of Brittany, where he met fellow painter John Russell.

Matisse was introduced to Impressionism and the work of Van Gogh and later Camille Pissarro. As a result, Matisse began to change his style; his colours became bolder and formed a vehicle for describing light and space. Matisse led the Fauves (Wild Beasts) during the period of 1904 – 1908; a group that included the artists Raoul Dufy and Georges Braque. Their spontaneous response to nature was expressed in bold, brushstrokes and designed to exploit the potential of colour. In 1906 Matisse met Picasso. At first, they did not like each other’s work, but through their years of friendship, there developed something of a creative dialog; intelligently challenging and provoking each other.

In 1941, Matisse was diagnosed with cancer and confined to his wheelchair. His creativity was not diminished and he began “painting with scissors.” This new wave of making was not a compromise. In fact, Matisse refers to it as: “only what I created after the illness constitutes my real self: free, liberated.”