Famous Artists: Henri Matisse

Editorial credit: Anna Pakutina / Shutterstock.com. A hall in the Hermitage displaying several works by Henri Matisse.

Famous Artists: Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse, a French artist, was famous for his use of colors and original draughtsman. He was a sculptor, printmaker, and draughtsman but he was known mainly for painting. Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso are regarded as some of the artists who played major roles in the development of visual art in the early 20th century. The two influenced the contemporary arts in the 20th century. Matisse was praised for upholding the classical tradition of French painting despite being considered a Fauve initially. His expressive use of color and drawing as displayed by most of his works for over half a century won him a place among the leading artists in the Modern Art.

Early Life

Henri was born in December 1869 in a little town known as Le Cateau-Cambresis in northern France. He was raised up Bohain-en-Vermandois. He joined law school in Paris in 1887 and later went back to Le Cateau-Cambresis after gaining his qualifications to work as a court administrator. He began painting in 1889 when his mother bought him art materials. He immediately developed an interest in art and described the feeling as having “discovered a paradise.” He enrolled for art classes in Paris in 1891 and the Academie Julian was one of the students of William-Adolphe and Gustave Moreau.

Early Work and Painting

Matisse’s early artwork included still life paintings and landscapes in traditional styles in which he developed proficiency. His work was influenced by early artists such as Nicolas Poussin and Antoine Watteau, and some modern artists such as Edouard Manet. His most admired artist was Jean-Baptiste-Simeon Chardin of whom he made several copies of his art in the Louvre. Between 1896 and 1897, Matisse was introduced to Impressionism by John Peter Russell who he had visited in Australia. Matisse’s style of painting changed completely, commending Russell as his teacher. In 1896, some of his paintings that were exhibited in Societe Nationale des Beaux-Art were purchased by the state, boosting his growing popularity. Because of his love for art, particularly painting, Matisse ran into debts from buying work from other painters he admired. Between 1898 and 1901, he employed the use of Divisionist techniques in his painting. Matisse also made the first attempt at sculpture in 1899 where he devoted most of his time to working with clay.


Fauvism was an art movement that began in 1900 and lasted beyond 1910. However, the movement was most popular between 1904 and 1908. Matisse and Andre Derain led the Fauvist group. The first individual exhibition by Matisse was in 1904 at Ambroise Vollard’s gallery. Although the exhibition was not a success, Matisse spent most of his time painting some of his most popular neo-Impressionist styled work. Most of his work displayed flat shapes and controlled lines. Matisse together with his group of artists known as “Fauve” held an exhibition in 1905 with the paintings expressing emotions with wild colors without regards for the subject’s natural color. Although Matisse and Derain were recognized as leaders of the Fauve, they had their own separate followers. Matisse was not affected by the decline of Fauvist movement after 1906. In fact, most of his paintings were created between 1906 and 1917. Matisse died in 1954 at the age of 84 from cardiac arrest.


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