Matisse, Henri

Henri Matisse was born 1869 in an industrial area of Northern France and almost accidentally stumbled into a career in art. Initially working as a legal clerk, he drew for pleasure in his spare time but he began to paint when he was recovering from an illness, and his career as a serious artist began.

He moved to Paris shortly after where he was trained in classical painting but became aware of the art of Cezanne and Van Gogh who became influential figures in the development of his own artistic style.

By the mid-1890s he was showing his works in large exhibitions and by the turn of the century, his style had become more progressive. A visit to St Tropez and later Coulloure, was the inspiration for him to infuse his works with light and bright colours. His work was more an abstracted realism, his human forms recognisable but altered.. A critic nicknamed Matisse a “Fauve” or “wildbeast”, because of the way he portrayed the human form, and the name Fauvism became the term used to describe the works of Matisse and some of his contemporaries.

In Matisse, it is characterised by the emphasis on the emotional power of sinuous lines, strong brushwork and bright colours, and he captures a mood rather than merely trying to depict reality.

With his now defined style his success grew and he travelled extensively for inspiration. Following a permanent move to Nice, he created some of his most famous works, the Blue Nude pictures. Health issues resulted in surgery in 1941 and he was often bedridden. But this did not stop him from creating art. He devised means to paint or draw such as attaching pencils or brushes to long poles so that he could reach the canvas and his late works were as experimental and vibrant as his early works.

His 1947 book, Jazz, showed a new approach in the use of paper cut-outs stuck to brightly coloured paper to create his art, a technique he used until his death in 1954.

Spanning a 60 year career, his revolutionary use of brilliant colour and exaggeration of form to convey emotion makes him one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.