Henri Matisse

For joie de vivre and artistic innovation, there are few bodies of work to rival that of Henri Matisse. His painting, printmaking, sculpture and cut-outs sit alongside the achievement of Pablo Picasso as one of the defining visions in 20th-century art.

Matisse was born into the bourgeoisie of northern France near the border with Belgium in 1869. He trained as a lawyer in Paris and worked as a clerk before turning to painting while convalescing from appendicitis in 1889. He joined the studio of the Symbolist painter Gustave Moreau in 1892, before studying under Moreau at the École des Beaux Arts. Moreau’s dictum, ‘you must think through colour’, would have a lasting impact on Matisse.

Beginning with his and André Derain’s development of Fauvism in the early 1900s, colour would remain the central tenet of Matisse’s work. He produced the Fauvist masterpiece, Le Bonheur de Vivre, between 1905 and 1906, but by 1907 Fauvism was being superseded by Picasso and Braque’s Cubism. Matisse rejected Cubism and instead developed his own unique decorative approach. This resulted in some of the 20th century’s most beautiful colourist artworks, including Harmony in Red (1908), Dance I (1909) and Red Studio (1911).

For Matisse, art fulfilled a profoundly positive role in society — a spiritual shelter from the realities of the world. His exploration of colour was a part of this ideology. ‘What I dream of,’ he wrote, ‘is an art of balance, of purity and serenity devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter.’

By the 1920s, the key aesthetic elements of Matisse’s art had been founded: highly patterned interiors peopled with odalisques or still lifes. These can be found in works such as Interior, Flowers and Parakeets (1924), and Odalisque couchée aux magnolias (1923), which achieved a record price for a work by the artist when it sold at Christie’s in 2018 for $80.8 million. He would return to a looser decorative aesthetic by the 1930s, producing pieces such as L’Odalisque, Harmonie Bleue (1937).

In 1941 illness began to restrict Matisse physically and he turned to drawing and paper cutting. Towards the end of his life he created some of his finest works, including the iconic Blue Nude (1952), The Snail collage (1952–53) and his murals and stained-glass for the Vence Chapel in the south of France (1948–51). Matisse died in 1954 in Nice.


HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Nadia au regard sérieux

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Corbeille de bégonias I

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Femme au voile (Lydia Delectorskaya)

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Femme nue assise ( recto ); Feuilles d’acanthe ( verso )

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Feuilles de figuier

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Danseuse étendue , from Dix Danseuses

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Tête penchée et bocal de poissons

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Nu, torse ( Henriette Darricarrère)

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Visage de profil reposant sur un bras, paravent Louis XIV

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Feuilles, étude

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Figure assise, blouse transparente

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

L'homme endormi

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Nu agenouillé au tub (Lisette Löwengard)

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Portrait de Thomassin

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Etude de femme (Lydia Delectorskaya)

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Etude autour de La blouse roumaine

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Etude de fruits et de feuilles de néflier

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Les trois modèles

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Patitcha souriante

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Nu allongé (Henriette Darricarrère )

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Vase de fleurs (An émones)

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Figure endormie aux babouches

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Danseuse endormie , from Dix Danseuses

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Figure allongée, pied sur le fauteuil

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Etude de citrons

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Figure au visage coupé assise dans un intérieur

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Portrait d'homme (Pierre Matisse)

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Etude de citron

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Grande liseuse

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Femme sur une chaise

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Danseuse allongée, tête accoudée , from Dix Danseuses

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Nu assis, le bras entourant la jambe repliée

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Léda au cygne

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Jeune étudiant de profil

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Nu assis, bras gauche sur la tête

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Femme, tête dans les bras (Lydia Delectorskaya)

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Nu debout en peignoir

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Figure allongée sur un lit d'acajou

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Femme et études d’yeux

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Le grand collier

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Nu couché de dos