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Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse, 1869- 1954

French Painter, sculptor, graphic artist.

Modern art master Henri Matisse’s career was long and varied, ranging in many different styles of painting to mixed media wall murals. Early on in his career, Matisse became known as the pioneer of the short-lived yet influential movement of Fauvism. The movement celebrated the use of pure color, simplification of line, and spontaneity of expression. Matisse derived from Fauvism a new understanding of chromatic harmony, which led to the creation of an early key work, Luxe Calme et Volupte, 1904.

Influenced by Cezanne’s color systems and Picasso’s friendship, Matisse’s art has an astonishing force that draws in all viewers. Unlike many of his contemporaries, the artist did not record his personal struggles onto his canvases. Instead, his greatest artworks gravitated toward beauty and utopian ideals, seamlessly combining form and content. Matisse is known for his still lifes, his interiors and his nudes. His aspirations toward harmony and purity reached its climax in the decoration for a French monastery, for which he also created stained glass windows. Toward the end of his career, Matisse’s hands lost their ability to hold steady, which led to the development of his cutout murals. The artist rendered brightly colored amorphous shapes with his scissors and then adhered them to various media. His renowned Jazz series combines these abstract shapes into expressive rhythms that hang on the walls like notes.

In addition to his painterly work, Matisse produced a vibrant body of graphic works. From 1900 until his death in 1954, he completed more than eight hundred intaglios, lithographs, woodcuts, linoleum cuts and monotypes. His attitude toward printmaking was an unconventional one in that for him it was a personal process, more like an extension of drawing. Illustrated books account for a significant part of Matisse’s oeuvre. Over the course of his career the artist collaborated on thirty-eight projects; his first book Poesies, 1932 is one of his most famous.

 

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