© STAFF / AFP Photo
Henri Matisse

© STAFF / AFP Photo

Henri Matisse

Born in 1869 in Cateau-Cambrésis (France), died in 1954 in Nice (France) 


The leader of fauvism and the master of the 20th century modern movement, Henri Matisse played an important role through his stylised forms and the way he married colour and design.

In 1890, a court administrator, Matisse enrolled at the Académie Julian, then joined the studio of Gustave Moreau. His encounter with impressionism in 1897 marked him, as did his first trips to the South of France, during which time he discovered the works of Van Gogh and, importantly, Cézanne. His break with the Académie primarily came about through Signac’s pointillism, which he adopted for his painting Luxe, calme et volupté (1904). The piece was a precursor to his more expansive gestures, intensified tones and freedom of line, which he established during his time in Collioure with Derain in 1905. The result was exhibited at the Salon d’Automne in 1905, when critic Louis Vauxcelles defined Matisse as one of the Fauves. During the 1910s, Matisse aspired to simplify his methods, using more geometric forms that bordered on abstraction (Porte-fenêtre à Collioure, 1914). Eastern influences, the pervasiveness of music, and solutions to the integration of figures in space were some of the avenues explored by the painter during the 1920s and 1930s. After the war, Matisse’s synthetism and his way of composing works using flat areas of colour intensified further, as seen in the Intérieurs produced in Vence between 1946 and 1948. Their conclusion led to the paper cut-out method which Matisse turned to when he could no longer paint. This technique, which Matisse had already experimented with during the 1930s for his La Danse pieces for the Barnes Foundation and for Paris (Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris), allowed him to create directly with colour, and even with light (stained glass windows for the chapel in Vence, 1948-1951). Initially based on the repetition of motifs, Matisse’s paper cut-outs revealed their full potential in La Tristesse du roi (1952, kept by the Pompidou Centre, Paris).

Selected Bibliography

Pagé, Suzanne ; Parent, Béatrice ; Lichtenstein, Jacqueline... [et al.]. Les clefs d'une passion [exposition, Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, 1er avril - 6 juillet 2015]. Paris : Hazan, 2015. 

Matisse, Henri ; Fourcade, Dominique. Écrits et propos sur l'art. Nouvelle édition revue et corrigée. Paris : Hermann, 2009. (Savoir sur l'art).

Schneider, Pierre. Matisse. Nouvelle éd. actualisée. Paris : Flammarion, 2002.

Labrusse, Rémi. Matisse : la condition de l'image. Paris : Gallimard, 1999.

Bois, Yve-Alain ; Fourcade, Dominique ; Monod-Fontaine, Isabelle... [et al.]. Henri Matisse : 1904-1917 : [exposition], Centre Georges Pompidou, Grande Galerie, Paris, 25 février-21 juin 1993. Paris : Centre Georges Pompidou, 1993.

Elderfield, John ; Museum of modern art (New York , N.Y.). Henri Matisse : a retrospective : [exhibition, The Museum of modern art, New York, September 24, 1992-January 12, 1993]. New York : Museum of Modern Art, 1992.

***   All materials available at the Documentation Centre of the Fondation  ***

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