Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse (1869-1954) was born in Le Cateau-Cambrésis, a small town in northern France. Matisse studied law in Paris and was arranged by his father to become a law office clerk once he finished school. However, while recovering from appendicitis in 1889, he discovered his passion for painting. His mother brought him art supplies during this time of recuperation. She was a painter as well and it is apparent that Matisse learned from his mother and looked to her for inspiration. In 1891, Henri Matisse began his formal art education at the Académie Julian, but left due to their limited teaching structure. He later attended the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris after submitting multiple applications. Matisse had a difficult time finding his place in the art world and stood out as a sort of outcast amongst other artists. A critical turning point for his art came in 1904, after a trip to Saint-Tropez. His paintings shifted from a traditional Flemish style to Fauvism. He introduces bright colors, strong brush strokes and distorted images into his work. His paintings become more emotionally driven rather than searching to depict the world accurately and realistically. Some of Henri Matisse’s most well-know works come from this time period.


The Open Window, Collioure, Oil on canvas , 1905

Viewers are less exposed to Matisse’s art that follows in 1914 during World War I. During this time he traded the bright hues for layers of dark color and dense pigment. Matisse wanted to enlist in the war, but was rejected due to a heart condition. Many of his friends were fighting in the war and he felt helpless. His reactions can be seen through his work. Matisse began to create paintings labeled as “more ancient and more modern” (Lifson). Portrait of Yvonne Landsberg is one of Matisse’s wartime paintings. Throughout this painting, he uses muted, dark colors. He also scratches the surface with the end of his paintbrush to create lines around the figure.


Portrait of Yvonne Landsberg, 1914

Henri Matisse’s work changed with his environment. His responses to places and events are clear in his work. His career as an artist was long-lasting and we are left with six decades of influential work. Matisse produced art through the final years of his life and proves to be one of the most prominent and instrumental artists in directing modern art.


Biography.com Editors. “Henri Matisse – Painter, Sculptor – Biography.com.” Henri Matisse Biography. A&E Television Networks, 8 July 2014. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.

“Biography of Henri Matisse.” Henri Matisse. N.p., 2011. Web. 22 Oct. 2016.

Lifson, Edward. “A Wartime Matisse Full Of Pain And Beauty : NPR.” A Wartime Matisse Full of Pain and Beauty. N.p., 13 June 2010. Web. 23 Oct. 2016.

Sternau, Susan A. Henri Matisse. Ed. Elizabeth Loonan. New York: Todtri Production Limited, 1997. Print.