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Henri Matisse



Henri Matisse was born in 1869, at Cateau-Cambresis, France.  He grew up in in Bohain-en-Vermandois, near the Belgian border, the son of a seed merchant.  As opposed to most of the artists covered on this site, Matisse did not begin his artist's career at a very young age.  In 1889, he studied law to become clerk, but a bad case of appendicitis, and the sojourn in the hospital made him take up painting as a way to occupy his convalescing time, and two years later,  he decided to abandon law, and take up art studies.

After a brief stint at the Académie Julian, Matisse enrolled at the prestigious École des Beaux Arts in Paris, where he only stayed for two years due to his disillusionment with the curriculum, and artistic differences with the teachers.  After discovering the works of van GoghMonet and the impressionists, he decided to make color the central focus of his work.  As opposed to the impressionists, Matisse used bright colors, and seldom painted outside.

In 1898, Henri Matisse had married Amélie Parayre, who was also to take care of his illegitimate child, a daughter from a previous liaison.  After he left  the École des Beaux Arts, Matisse went on to study with French Symbolist painter Eugène Carrière.  It was there he met André Derain, and the Fauvist movement was born.

As Monet had become the leader of the Impressionist movement, Matisse would soon take the lead with Fauvism, a style not unlike that of the impressionists, but where vivid colors are substituted for natural ones.  Meanwhile, he and Amélie were going through some financial hardships, so she opened a hat store to make ends meet.  The shop was successful enough to support the family while Henri continued painting. 

During an exhibit at the Salon des Indépendants, where he met another Fauvist visionary, Maurice de Vlaminck.  Monet himself continued exploring his bold use of colors, and in 1904, he had enough canvasses to hold his first solo exhibit at the Galerie Vollard, where none, but the most groundbreaking artists had their works shown.  The exhibit was a success, and the who's who of art collectors were buying Matisse's paintings.

Matisse was not one to rest on his laurels, and he continued studying various styles including primitive art, and the work of painters in other disciplines.  He traveled a lot,  recording images of foreign people and places in his mind for further inspiration.  Matisse spent time in the south of France, where he could work in a peaceful atmosphere.  Matisse not only painted, but he also experimented with sculpture and  lithographs. 

Merely a decade after his first showing, Matisse was now considered one of the most important artists of the new century, and his talent was appreciated worldwide. He had an exhibit with Pablo Picasso at the Paul Guillaume Gallery in Paris in 1918; he designed costumes for the presentation of Shostakovich's Le Rouge et le Noir by the Ballets Russes; he was awarded the Legion d'Honneur In 1925, and he won first prize at the Carnegie International Exhibition in 1927. 

Matisse continued to travel, but focused mainly on shuttling between Paris and the Riviera.  It was also around this time that things were turning sour between he and his wife, and the two were soon separated.  With World war Two on the horizon, and his own personal problem, Henri Matisse's health took a turn for the worse.  Henri Matisse was diagnosed with duodenal cancer.

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