Henri Matisse, French (1869 - 1954)

Matisse was born in Le Cateau-Cambrésis in northern France on December 31, 1869. The son of a middle-class family, he studied and began to practice law. In 1890, however, while recovering slowly from an attack of appendicitis, he became intrigued by the practice of painting. In 1892, having given up his law career, he went to Paris to study art formally. He joined Gustave Moreau's studio at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts where he met Camoin, Manguin, Marquet and Jean Puy.

French painter and sculptor Henri Matisse was the primary figure in the group of artists known as the fauves and a major influence on twentieth-century painting. In the 1890s Matisse studied in Paris as a pupil of Gustave Moreau at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. His style, deceptively simple, employs perfection of line to suggest the subject and, usually, the happy application of bright colors to enhance the image.

From the 1920s until his death, Matisse spent much time in the south of France, particularly Nice, painting local scenes with a thin, fluid application of bright color. In his old age, he was commissioned to design the decoration of the small Chapel of Saint-Marie du Rosaire at Vence (near Cannes), which he completed between 1947 and 1951. Often bedridden during his last years, he occupied himself with decoupage, creating works of brilliantly colored paper cutouts arranged casually, but with an unfailing eye for design, on a canvas surface.

He is best known for his still lifes and nudes. Matisse produced a large body of graphic work which included etchings, drypoints, woodcuts, lithographs, monotypes, and aquatints, as well as many book illustrations. In his later years, when he was an invalid, he began his highly acclaimed series of cut-out collages which he called "drawings with scissors." He was honored with the Grand Prize at the Venice Biennale in 1950, and has consistently been exhibited in the world's finest galleries and museums.

Matisse died in Nice on November 3, 1954. Unlike many artists, he was internationally popular during his lifetime, enjoying the favor of collectors, art critics, and the younger generation of artists.

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