Emile Benoit Matisse was born on 31 December 1869 in Cateau-Cambresis,
in the north of France. After his secondary education in Saint-Quentin,
he studied law in Paris and got his degree. Without visiting any of the
museums in Paris he returns to Cateau Cambresis in 1888, where he was
able to get an administrative job in the court. In 1889 he took a painting
course in Saint-Quentin.
He worked in court for about two years, till he got ill in 1890. He had to stay in bed for about a year and was bored with everything. Therefor his mother bought him a paint-box. Out of boredom Matisse started painting and he felt like he was taken to some kind of paradise. After his illness he quit his administrative job and his father allowed him to attend the 'Academie Julian" in Paris.
In 1893 the work of Matisse got noticed by Gustav Moreau. Moreau asked Matisse to join his atelier without doing an exam. He also predicted that Matisse would be the artist who would simplify the art. In 1995, after Matisse his daughter was born, he officially joined the atelier of Moreau and became his student.
1896 and 1897 Matisse exposed his work for the first time in the 'Salon de la Societe Nationale'. In these works Matisse still used dark colors and the paintings were not daring at all. During this period Matisse often went to the Louvre where he got inspired by artists like Poussin, Rafaël and David. In 1897 he came in touch with the Impressionism when a friend showed him some of the paintings of Van Gogh.
1898 Matisse got married with amélie Parayre, the mother of his daughter. One year later Moreau died. Matisse and Cormon, the new owner of the atelier, did not share the same ideas and therefor Matisse left the atelier.
In 1901 Matisse recovered from another illness in Switzerland, where he met Signac and De Vlaminck. Between 1901 and 1906 many exhibitions of the Post-Impressionist painters , like Cézanne, Gaugain and Van Gogh, were held in France. Matisse and other artists of the younger generation like Derain, Marquet and De Vlaminck, were very impressed by the work of the Post-Impressionistic artists. They started to experiment with Post-Impressionism and with the Post-Impressionistic principals as their bases, these young artists developed their own, totally new styles ( the Expressionism).
The characteristics of the new style of artists like Matisse and De Vlaminck, were the use of vivid colors and the unreal disforming of the objects. In 1905 the group exposed their work for the first time. The critics called them a disgrace for art and therefor called them 'The Fauves'. The Fauves means 'Wild Beasts', a name that the artists of the group excepted with pride They decided to call their group The Fauves.
Matisse was the central figure during the Fauvistic Period. He was the one who painted the very simplified figures in very vivid colors, creating an unreal scene, in the most convincing way. In his work he used vivid colors and precise indications of the structure by strong outlines. The work of Matisse is based on the principals and possibilities of 'leaving . out'. The human minds can fill in what is missing in the painting, like dimension, details and plastically forms. Matisse applied to working with large levels of primary colors, which created an impression of light and space.
Matisse was the master of simplifying: colors and lines were more important to him than reflecting the object. It was Cézanne who taught Matisse the importance of colors in a painting. "Colors form powers of which the relations had to be in balance." Following to Matisse, Fauvism was the result of refusing to work with colors other than pure colors. They could reach greater effects by using pure colors and the effect of the (sun)light in the painting was more beautiful. The artists of The Fauves tried to create non-dimensional levels by the as whole and autonomous as possible use of pure colors. Intuition also was very important to Matisse and The Fauves. The form and content of the painting had to be in complete balance. For Matisse they formed a totality.
1906 was the high point of the Fauvistic Period. However, during the same year Picasso set the first step towards the Cubism. This new movement meant the end for The Fauves.
After 1906 Matisse was not related to any movement anymore. Together with Picasso and Mondrian, Matisse formed an autonomous position in the art during the first half of the 20th century. Matisse never left the figuration, but his creations became more and more simplified and pure. Matisse wanted to create art that reflect a restful impression.
Between 1909 and 1917 Matisse created his masterpieces. During this period not color was his final purpose, but he made color immaterial and puts it to light. He got inspired by nature and the sun during his travels to Italy, Germany, Spain, Russia and Maroc. Working outdoors was for Matisse the way to get fresh impressions. These fresh impressions had to lead to new creations.
End of 1917 Matisse felt the need to relax after years of experimenting and struggling with his innerself. In 1921, after World War I Matisse moved to Nice. From than on Matisse his life is one of luxury, bright light and a subtropic climate. The work that Matisse created between 1918 and 1930 did not get many attention of the public and the critics.
During 1930 and 1940 Matisse started with a decorative style. The linear element and the decorative works during this period were a result of Matisse his study of the relation between the disforming of figures and the expressive function of lines.
Henri Matisse died on 3 November 1954. During his last years he created black and white drawings with ink and large compositions of colored and cut pieces of paper, called his 'cut-outs'. These works again show Matisse his love for light. He used large cut pieces of paper, which form solid elements and are all related to each other. Because of the purity of the relations between these pieces of paper, they were in complete balance.
The 'cut-outs' combine the simplicity and the whole and they can be seen as a complete summary of Matisse his work.