Henri Matisse   French 1869-1954

Painter, print maker, designer, he was born  in the North of France in 1869.  In 1887/88 he studied law in Paris and by 1889 employed as a clerk in a solicitor’s office. It was in 1890 that he was first attracted to painting. Confined to his bed for nearly a year after an intestinal operation, he chose drawing as a pastime. The following year Matisse had decided to study art and enrolled at the Académie Julian. In 1892 he had transferred unofficially to Gustave Moreau’s studio at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, where he met the artist Marquet whilst attending the Ecole Nationale des Arts Décoratifs.

During the period 1899-1904 Matisse participated in a group exhibitions at Berthe Weil’s Gallery in Paris(1902) He painted townscapes with Marquet in Paris, spent the summer of 1904 working with Signac and Cross at Saint-Tropez, and in 1905-6 painted views of Collioure. In 1905 and 1906 Matisse, his talent now fully developed, exhibited at the Salon d’Automne and the Salon des Indépendants together with Derain, Marquet, Vlaminck, Rouault and others and their violently coloured paintings sparked off controversy. The group were called “Les Fauves” (The Wild ones) by a journalist and the name stuck.
In 1910 Matisse visited Munich to see an exhibition of Islamic art. In 1911 he visited Seville; later visiting Moscow on the invitation of his leading patron the collector S. Shchukin. He later travelled to Tangiers in Morocco. From 1914 to 1918 he divided his time between Collioure, Paris and Nice. In 1918 a Matisse-and-Picasso exhibition opened at the Guillaume Gallery. Between the war years he was busy painting, illustrating books and designing ballet scenery. In 1920 Matisse designed the stage sets and costumes for S. Diaghilev’s ballet ‘The Nightingale’ (to Stravinsky’s music) and in 1939 for Léonide Massine’s ballet ‘Rouge et Noir’.
During the Second World War Matisse lived in the south of France – Bordeaux, Ciboure, Nice. In 1941 he underwent a serious operation. Confined to bed for most of the ensuing period, he turned his attention to book design and illustration. He designed and illustrated Henri de Montherlant’s ‘Pasiiphaë’ in 1944, Baudelaire’s ‘Les Fleurs du Mal’, Mariana Alcoforado’s ‘Lettres Portugaises’ and Reverdy’s ‘Visages’ in 1946, Ronsard’s ‘Amours’ in 1948. His greatest book ‘Jazz’, published in 1947, contained a facsimile reproduction of the text written in the artist’s own hand and illustrations executed in gouache after Matisse’s cut outs.

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