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Matisse, Henri (1869-1954)
by Scholes, Robert


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Henri Matisse (1869 - 1954)

Henri-Emile-Benoît Matisse was born on December 31, 1869, in Le Cateau–Cambrésis, France. He grew up at Bohain-en-Vermandois and studied law in Paris from 1887 to 1888. By 1891, he had abandoned law and started to paint. In Paris, Matisse studied art briefly at the Académie Julian and then at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts with Gustave Moreau.

After studying under Bouguereau and Gustave Moreau he experimented with Pointillism, which he found rigidly confining. Later, building on the work of Cézanne and Gauguin, he and Andre Derain developed Fauvism, a much freer and more expressive style of painting which was in fact the forerunner of Expressionism. Like impressionism and cubism, fauvism was a derisive nickname given by hostile critics who did not like what they saw. Fauve means "wild beast."

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. Both Leo and Gertrude Stein, as well as Etta and Claribel Cone, began to collect Matisse's work at that time. Like many avant-garde artists in Paris, Matisse was receptive to a broad range of influences. He was one of the first painters to take an interest in “primitive” art. Matisse abandoned the palette of the Impressionists and established his characteristic style, with its flat, brilliant color and fluid line. His subjects were primarily women, interiors, and still lifes. In 1913, his work was included in the Armory Show in New York.

Between them, he and Picasso dominated the artworld during the early twentieth century.

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