Henri Matisse is a French painter, sculptor, draftsman and collagist. He was born in Cateau-Cambresis, France. He studied law at university level , passed the bar in 1888 with distinction and began his practice. Matisse’s discovery of his true profession came about in an unusual manner. He stumbled on painting in 1889 while convalescing from an attack of appendicitis and entered the School of Fine Arts (Bouguereau studio) before moving on to the Gustave Moreau studio where he learned the fundamental lessons of classical painting. Matisse began painting still-lifes 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.
His first experimentations earned him a reputation as the rebellious member of his studio classes. Matisse's career can be divided into several periods that changed stylistically, but his underlying aim always remained the same: to discover ‘the essential character of things’ and to produce an art ‘of balance, purity, and serenity,’ as he himself put it. By 1905, at the Salon de l’Automn, Fauvism was born. Matisse was considered the spearhead of the Fauve movement in France, characterized by its spontaneity and roughness of execution as well as use of raw color straight from the palette to the canvas.
The movement was first considered scandalous and in the first decade of his notoriety as the leader of the Fauves, Matisse was more admired by foreigners than by the French. Like many avant-garde artists in Paris, Matisse was receptive to a broad range of influences. He is one of the first painters to take an interest in various forms of ‘primitive’ art. Matisse also experimented drawing and sculpture throughout his lifetime often helping him to work out compositional and stylistic problems or new ideas. Much of Matisse's source of inspiration was poetic and like poetry , Matisse’s paintings were intimate, sensuous and personal. The American critics have greeted the exhibition of his 100th anniversary in New York as ‘the most beautiful exhibition in the world’. Every Matisse show brings in the crowds and these art visitors know today the privileged place Matisse occupies in the history of 20th century art. In 1951 a major retrospective of his work was presented at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and then travelled to Cleveland, Chicago and San Francisco. In 1952, the Musée Matisse was inaugurated at the artist’s birthplace of Le Cateau–Cambrésis. New York. More recently, the exhibition Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs was exhibited at London’s Tate Modern, from April to September 2014. The show was the largest and most extensive of the cut-outs ever mounted, the show subsequently travelled to New York’s Museum of Modern Art, which was a resounding success.
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