Henri Matisse 1869-1954


Henri Emile Benoît Matisse was born in a tiny, tumbledown weaver's cottage on the rue du Chêne Arnaud in the textile town of Le Cateau-Cambrésis in 1869.

Matisse's discovery of his true profession came about in an unusual manner. Following an attack of appendicitis, he began to paint in 1889, when his mother had brought him art supplies during the period of convalescence. He said later, « From the moment I held the box of colors in my hands, I knew this was my life. I threw myself into it like a beast that plunges towards the thing it loves. » Matisse?s mother was the first to advise her son not to adhere to the « rules » of art, but rather listen to his own emotions.

Matisse was so committed to his art that he later extended a warning to  his fiancée, Amélie Parayre, whom he later married: « I love you dearly, mademoiselle; but I shall always love painting more. » Matisse had discovered "a kind of paradise" as he later described it. His drastic change of profession deeply disappointed his father.

Two years later in 1891 Matisse returned to Paris to study art at the Académie Julian and became a student of William-Adolphe Bouguereau. After a discouraging year at the Académie Julian, he left in disgust at the overly perfectionist style of teaching there. Afterwards he trained with Gustave Moreau, an artist who nurtured more progressive leanings. In both studios, as was usual, students drew endless figure studies from life.

From Bouguereau, he learned the fundamental lessons of classical painting. His one art-schooled technical standby, almost a fetish, was the plumb line. No matter how odd the angles in any Matisse, the verticals are usually dead true. Moreau was a painter who despised the "art du salon", so Matisse was destined, in a certain sense, to remain an "outcast" of the art world. He initially failed his drawing exam for admission to the École des Beaux-Arts, but persisted and was finally accepted.

Matisse began painting still-lives and landscapes in the traditional Flemish style, at which he achieved reasonable proficiency. Most of his early works employ a dark palette and tend to be gloomy. Chardin was one of Matisse's most admired painters having made four the French still-life master paintings in the Louvre. Although he executed numerous copies after the old masters he also studied contemporary art.  His first experimentations earned him a reputation as the rebellious member of his studio classes.

In 1896, Matisse was elected as an associate member of the Société Nationale, which meant that each year he could show paintings at the Salon de la Société without having to submit them for review. In the same year he exhibited 5 paintings in the salon of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, and the state bought two of his paintings. This was the first and almost only recognition he received in his native country during his lifetime. In 1897 and 1898, he visited the painter John Peter Russell on the island Belle Île off the coast of Brittany. Russell introduced him to Impressionism and to the work of Van Gogh who had been a good friend of Russell but was completely unknown at the time. Matisse's style changed completely, and he would later say "Russell was my teacher, and Russell explained color theory to me." Matisse also observed Russell's and other artists' stable marriages. This probably influenced him to find in Amélie Noellie Parayre, his future wife, his anchor.

The Dinner Table (1897) was Matisse's first masterpiece, and he had spent the entire winter working on the oeuvre. Though the Salon displayed the piece, they hung the work in a poor location, disgusted by what they considered its radical, Impressionist aspects.

Caroline Joblaud was Matisse's early lover for four years during his initial struggles to affirm his artistic direction and professional career. Caroline (also called Camille) gave Matisse his first daughter Marguerite in 1894, who after Matisse's marriage to Amélie Noellie Parayre was warmly accepted contrary to conventional hostility such arrangements provoked. Caroline posed various times for the artist?s compositions while Marguerite served many times as a model for Matisse throughout his life.

 Source : www.henri-matisse.net


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