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.