French visual artist Henri Émile Benoît Matisse is renowned for both his use of color and his fluid and inventive draftsmanship. He was a printmaker, sculptor, and draftsman, but is best known for his paintings. Many of Matisse’s best works were produced in the decade or so after 1906 when he developed a strict style that focused on flattened forms and decorative patterns. Matisse is frequently regarded, along with Pablo Picasso, as one of the artists who best helped to define the revolutionary developments in the visual arts throughout the first decades of the twentieth century. We honor this legend and his accomplishments today.
Henri Émile Benoît Matisse
December 31, 1869
November 3, 1954 (age 84)
Henri Émile Benoît Matisse was born on December 31, 1869, in Paris He first began to paint in 1889, and in 1891 he enrolled in art classes at the Académie Julian under William-Adolphe Bouguereau and the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts under Gustave Moreau. As a student, he primarily produced traditional, academic still-life, and landscape paintings. However, in 1897, after being exposed to Van Gogh’s work, his style started to change. He painted “Woman with a Hat,” in 1905, not long after that. His wife Amelie was portrayed in the painting, which was done in vivid tones of thickly brushed whites, blues, and greens.
The overt departure from academic painting outraged many critics, and Matisse was given the nickname ‘Fauve,’ which means ‘wild beast,’ for the work. These critics were the reason why he quickly gave birth to the Fauvism art movement. Matisse spent months in Morocco between 1912 and 1913 and produced around 24 orientalist paintings and drawings featuring subjects such as odalisques and the harem. He was drawn to capturing the plush interiors and fabrics he saw while traveling. One illustration is “Odalisque in Red Trousers,” from around 1924 to 1925, where the opulent fabrics, attire, and furnishings evoke the exoticism of the Orient. “Odalisque au Fauteuil Noir,” one of Matisse’s paintings of the odalisque, brought in $17.6 million at a Sotheby’s auction in 2015. His other notable works, including “Dance” (1910) and “The Joy of Life” (1905 – 1905), are now housed in renowned museums and institutions. Despite being more well-known as a painter and sculptor, Matisse started making prints frequently in 1906. Matisse was particularly involved in the lithography process, which produced more than 100 original lithographs at the Mourlot studio as well as black and white illustrations for books. The lithographs frequently came in editions of 25 to 50 and featured reclining nudists, interiors, and portraits as serial subjects. Because they were primarily black and white, his lithographs maintained the same spontaneity and intimacy as his pencil sketches. This is why he preferred lithography. Due to declining health, he stepped away from painting in the latter stages of his career. His keen sense of design and enthusiasm for creation, however, inspired him to use cut-outs as a new artistic medium. Using this technique, which he described as “painting with scissors,” Matisse produced designs for maquettes, bookplates, stained glass window designs, tapestries, and ceramics. His tapestries are especially captivating because they freshly present his recognizable artistic style.
Matisse had a daughter named Marguerite with the fashion model Caroline Joblau in 1894. He married Amélie Noellie Parayre in 1898, and the two together raised Marguerite and had two sons, Jean (born 1899) and Pierre (born 1900). He frequently used Marguerite and Amélie as models. On 3 November 1954, at the age of 84, he passed away from a heart attack. He is interred in the Cimiez neighborhood of Nice’s Monastère Notre Dame de Cimiez cemetery.
Matisse returns to Paris to study art at the Académie Julian under William-Adolphe Bouguereau and at the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts under Gustave Moreau.
His paintings start to evolve after he was exposed to the work of Van Gogh.
On the hilltop of Vence in France, Matisse publishes his first Major cut-out project for his artistic book titled “Jazz.”
Matisse’s suite of 39 lithographs is published after his death.
Why We Love Henri Matisse
He created unique methods and styles of painting
Innovating new, abstracting perspectives on the world and techniques that reevaluated the very nature of painting itself, Matisse had been at the forefront of Western art for twenty years. His contribution is undeniable.
He is one of the greatest colorists of the century
The foundation of the French painter’s expressive, ornamental, and large-scale paintings was color. He used vivid colors to electrify his paintings.
He saw the light in everything
Matisse always chose to see the brightness of things and that is reflected a lot in his paintings. He had seen his fair share of tragedies, yet he always ensured his paintings were alive and bright.
5 Surprising Facts
He was diagnosed with cancer
Matisse was diagnosed with abdominal cancer in 1914 and underwent surgery for it.
He was studying to become a lawyer
Before he decided to pursue art, Matisse was studying to become a lawyer.
He was friends with Pablo Picasso
Matisse was good friends with the legendary artist Picasso.
He ran an art school
Between 1908 and 1911, Matisse was the director of the tiny Academie Matisse art school in Paris.
He developed a unique painting style
Matisse invented a new technique that used scissors to paint.
Henri Matisse FAQs
What type of art is Henri Matisse known for?
He is known for Fauvism.
What are some of Henri Matisse’s most notable works?
Some of his most notable works include “Woman with a Hat” (1905), “The Joy of Life” (1906), “Nu bleu” (1907), “La Danse” (1909), and “ L’Atelier Rouge” (1911).
How many grandchildren does Henri Matisse have?
He has three grandchildren.
Henri Matisse’s birthday dates