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Henri Matisse ( French, b. 1869 - d. 1954 )

Henri Matisse (b. 1869 - d. 1954)

One of the great pioneering masters of 20th Century art, Henri Matisse was an extremely versatile and productive artist. Although he was an outstanding sculptor, he is most widely known and loved for his paintings and graphics.

Matisse's intended career was law. But in 1890, while recovering from an illness, he took up painting as a diversion, and against his parents' wishes, continued along this path. He traveled to Paris to pursue his art studies in the autumn of 1891, at the age of twenty-two. When he died, in 1954 at the age of eighty-five, he had created a body of work that has established him as one of the two foremost artists of the modern period, the other being Picasso.

The inventive genius of Matisse could not be confined within the limits of any one school of art. He studied the old masters; he explored Impressionism and post-Impressionism, and he ventured into various modes of expressive abstraction. Matisse was also leader of the first avant-garde movement of the 20th century, the Fauves ("The Wild Beasts"). This group was known as such because of the extreme emotionalism the paintings conveyed and the vivid use of color.

Matisse's images of the human figure convey expressive form first and the particular details of anatomy only secondarily. He extended this principle into other fields; his bronze sculptures, like his drawings and works in several graphic media, reveal the same expressive contours seen in his paintings. Matisse's recognition and influence continued to grow and he was very prolific in various media. In addition to the popularity of his paintings and sculpture, the graphics of Matisse are amongst the most sought after prints in the history of Western Art.

Much of Matisse's later years were spent in the south of France, where he continued to work. Matisse died in Nice in 1954. Unlike many artists, he was internationally popular during his lifetime, enjoying the favor of collectors, art critics, and the younger generation of artists.