Henri Matisse was born December 31st, 1869 to two storeowners, Emile and Heloise Matisse. His father wanted him to be a lawyer, so later on in life he could takeover the family business. They sent him to Henri Martin Grammar School where he studied to be a lawyer. There was a hint of artist in Henri because while working as a lawyer's assistant he took up a drawing course (Essers 7). It was for curtain design but it seemed to be destiny for a lawyer's assistant to take up such a distant hobby as drawing.
At the age of 21, his intestinal operation led to appendicitis. Henri was on bed rest for most of 1890 and to help him occupy his time, his mother bought him a set of paints. That was the turning point in Henri's life. He decided to give up his career in law for a career in art. Matisse himself said, "It was as if I had been called. Henceforth I did not lead my life. It led me" (Getlein 80). Soon after, Henri began to take classes at the Academie Julian to prepare himself for the entrance examination at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts (Essers 7). Henri failed his first attempt, leading to his departure from the Academie. He then enrolled at the Ecole des Arts decoratifs and that is where his friendship with Albert Marquet began. They started working alongside of Gustave Moreau, a distinguished teacher at Ecole des Beaux-Arts, even though they had not been accepted (Essers 12). In 1895, Henri finally passed the Beaux-Arts entrance examination and his pathway to his new career choice had officially begun.
Henri studied under Moreau at the Beaux-Arts. Moreau obviously impressed with his student, told him, "You were born to simplify painting" (Getlein 80). It was at the Beaux-Arts where he met another Moreau student named Derain. Matisse and Derain would grow to become friends and future trendsetters.
During a visit to Brittany, Matisse discovered Impressionism (Essers 8). The works of Cezanne and Van Gogh influenced him. When he returned, he exhibited his first painting, Dinner Table, in 1897. This was his first painting of impressionistic style. Matisse's art began to concentrate on landscapes, still life, and domestic interiors. Still life is a theme Henri would follow for the rest of his career.
Henri tried to return to the Beaux-Arts after the release of Dinner Table. Moreau was no longer there and his successor, Cormon, told Henri to leave because he had passed the age limit of 30 (Essers 12). Matisse then began studying at a school started by a fellow artist and friend Camillo because he was not confident enough in his ability to be an independent artist.
In 1903, Matisse started accepting harshful commissions that took a toll on him. He became so sick that he though to give up painting. This is when he produced Studio under the Eaves. Matisse told his son, "That was the transition from valeurs to colors" (Essers 12). The next year he read Paul Signac's "From Delacroix to Neo-Impressionism". Matisse began to move further away from the techniques and style of Impressionism.
The famous summer of 1905 was spent in Collioure with Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck. This summer marked the most important turning point in Matisse's art career. During the summer, they experimented with the pointillism techniques of Seurat, but towards the end of the summer, the three artists had moved in a very different direction. The paintings produced in
Collioure rejected Impression and began a new movement. They exhibited their works in the Salon d'Automne, which they also founded in 1903. The paintings, View of Collioure and Le Bonheur de Vivre received loud criticism from nearly everyone who had seen them. Louis Vauxcelles, gave them the name the "Fauves" (Flam 79). They were nicknamed the "wild beasts" because of their use and experimentation with bright, unnatural colors. Their grass was not green, but yellow or orange. Skies were not blue, but pink or yellow. Even though...
Bibliography: Essers, Volkmar. Henri Matisse, 1869-1954: Master of Colour. Taschen: Koln, 1987.
Flam, Jack. Matisse: The Dance. National Gallery of Art: Washington D.C., 1993.
Flam, Jack. Matisse: The Man and His Art, 1869-1918. Cornell University Press: Ithaca, 1986.
Getlein, Mark. Gilbert 's Living With Art: Sixth Ed. McGraw Hill: New York, 2002.
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