Our Artists

Henri Matisse

A leader of the Fauvist movement, Henri Matisse was, with his friend and rival Pablo Picasso, a great master of 20th Century painting. He worked on nudes, landscapes and the theme of the joy of living: “We need to look at the whole of life through the eyes of a child”, he used to like to say. Henri Matisse went through periods of divisionism, fauvism and abstraction. He is also well known for his cut-out gouaches.


The birth of a vocation

Henri Matisse was the son of a seed merchant. He studied law and worked as a clerk in a solicitor’s office. At the age of 20, during a period of convalescence, he began to draw to pass the time. In 1890, he left the solicitor’s office, gave up his law studies and moved to Paris in 1891 to dedicate himself to painting. He was admitted to the National School of Fine Art and visited Gustave Moreau’s studio. At the time he was also acquainted with Bouguereau, Rouault and Marquet and was interested in impressionism, especially Jean-Baptiste Camille Corot, Turner, Cézanne, Gauguin, Van Gogh, etc.

A recognised artist

In 1904, in Collioure, he became friendly with the cubist painter Juan Gris and with Signac, a theoretician of the divisionist method (a method of painting that consisted of juxtaposing touches of pure colour that were mixed by the eye) inaugurated by Seurat. Matisse’s first exhibition took place the same year in the Ambroise Vollard gallery in Paris. In 1905, he painted Luxe, calme et volupté, a work that brought him to public notice for the first time. The originality lies in the fact that he did not seek to represent the real, but to simplify it by moving away from the colours of reality and freeing himself through the use of colour. But Matisse was not satisfied with his work: “My dominant colours were supposed to be intense and enhanced by contrasts, but were in fact swallowed up by the contrasts, which I made as important as the dominants. It led me to paint in solid colours: this was fauvism."

In 1905, Matisse exhibited a portrait of his wife, Woman in a Hat, at the “Salon d'Automne” (Autumn Show), which caused a scandal. An art critic used the expression “cage à fauves” (wild animal cage) and fauvism was born!

From this point on, Matisse took part in a large number of exhibitions and sold his paintings very well, particularly to collectors.

In 1925, he was appointed as a Knight of the Legion of Honour and, in 1927, he won the prestigious Carnegie prize.

The meeting with Picasso

Matisse and Picasso met in 1906. Their first joint exhibition was organised in Paris in 1918, at the Paul Guillaume gallery. Friends and rivals, they were both recognised painters at the time. Guillaume Apollinaire said: “They’ve just had the rarest and most unforeseen idea of having a joint exhibition for the two most famous masters who represent the two great opposing trends in contemporary art … It will be a wonderful exhibition and a key date in the art history of our time”.

The Nice period

In 1919, Matisse moved to Nice, where he painted virtually nothing else but the female body for the next ten years. This “Nice” period was rich in warm, sensual decorative works. At the end of the ‘20s, Matisse also became interested in sculpture and composition.


Matisse travelled a great deal, including Algeria, Italy, Germany, Morocco, Russia, the United States and Tahiti. This was a source of inspiration for his oeuvre.

The cut-out gouaches

From 1941, Matisse fell seriously ill and spent time in hospital. It was at this time that he perfected the technique of cut-out gouaches and began the Jazz series (1947), The King’s Sorrows (1952) and the projects for the Vence chapel  between 1948 and 1951.



Here is a list of some of Matisse’s works: 

- Nature morte au pichet, (Still life with a Jug) c. 1896-1897, Malraux Museum, Le Havre
- Le mur rose  
(The Pink Wall) (of Ajaccio Hospital), 1897-1898, Pompidou Centre MNR, Paris.
- Luxe, calme et volupté, 1904, Musée d'Orsay, Paris
- La Femme au chapeau, (Woman with a Hat) 1905, Museum of Modern Art, San Francisco
- Le Bonheur de vivre, 1905-1906, Barnes Fondation, Merion
- Portrait de Madame Matisse, (Portrait of Madame Matisse, known as “The Green Line”), 1905
- Luxe I, winter 1907
- La Desserte rouge, (The Dessert: Harmony in Red) 1908
- La Joie de vivre, (The Joy of Life) 1908
- La Danse et La Musique, (Dance and Music) 1909-1910, Hermitage Museum, Saint-Petersburg
- Nature morte au géranium, (Still life with geranium) 1910 Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich
- L'Intérieur aux aubergines, (Interior with Aubergines) 1911, Grenoble Museum
- La porte de la casbah, (Door of the Kasbah) 1912, Pushkin Museum, Moscow
- Porte-fenêtre à Collioure, (French window in Collioure) 1914, National Museum of Modern Art, Paris
- La Fenêtre, (The Window) 1916, Institute of Arts, Detroit
- Les demoiselles à la rivière, (Girls at the River) 1916-1917, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago
- Portrait d'Auguste Pellerin, (Portrait of Auguste Pellerin) 1917, National Museum of Modern Art, Paris
- Le Violoniste à la fenêtre
, (Violinist at the Window) 1918
- Paysage ou Rue dans le Midi, (Landscape or Street in Southern France) 1919, André Malraux Museum of Fine Art, Le Havre
- Femme assise, le dos tourné vers la fenêtre ouverte, (Woman sitting with her back to the open window) c. 1922, Museum of Fine Art, Montreal

 - Figure décorative sur fond ornemental, (Decorative figure against an ornamental background) 1925, National Museum of Modern Art, Paris
- Tahiti II, 1935-1936, Matisse Museum - Le Cateau-Cambrésis
- Grand nu couché, (Large reclining nude) 1935, Baltimore Museum of Art
- Deux danseurs
, (Two dancers) 1937-1938
- Liseuse sur fond noir, (Woman reading, black background) 1939
- Deux jeunes filles, robe jaune, robe écossaise, (Two girls, yellow dress, tartan dress) 1941, Matisse Museum - Le Cateau-Cambrésis
- Danseuse dans le fauteuil, sol en damier, (Dancer in the armchair, checked floor) 1942
- Le Clown
et Le Lagon, in Jazz, (The Clown and the Lagoon) 1943-1947
- L'Asie, (Asia) 1946, Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth
- Nu Bleu I et Nu bleu II, (Blue Nude I and Blue Nude II) 1952
- La Tristesse du roi
, (The Sorrows of the King) 1952
- Vigne, (Vine) 1953, Matisse Museum - Le Cateau-Cambrésis


- La chapelle du Rosaire de Vence, (The Chapel of the Rosary of Vence) 1948 to 1951: Stained glass window, Chasuble and Rose window

- The bronze sculptures (busts of Jeannette, 1910-1913; Nus de dos, (The Back Series) bas reliefs, 1909-1930)

- Matisse’s engravings (etchings, wood-cuts, lithographs) at the Quimper Museum of Fine Art

- Book illustrations: Les Fleurs du Mal by Baudelaire (1857), Poésies by Mallarmé (1932), Lettres de la religieuse portugaise (1946), Florilège des Amours by Ronsard (1948).

A few works by Matisse on the Wikilivres website

Useful links

Matisse Museum, Nice: “The interest of this collection lies in its presentation of Matisse’s artistic development, his progress and searches in the realms of colour and drawing, from the early paintings in 1890 to the cut-out gouaches towards the end of his life.”

The Matisse Museum, Cateau-Cambrésis

The Henri Matisse monograph at the Pompidou Centre

In the footsteps of Matisse in Nice

The 1999 Matisse’s Morocco exhibition website

Matisse’s life: a colour odyssey

Henri Matisse 's products at Nouvelles Images

> Postcards

Postcards The Tree Postcards Coeur d'amour épris

> Greeting cards

Greeting cards Coeur d'amour épris Greeting cards The Tree

> Transfert

Transfert Plane tree

Nationality(ies) : French
Born on : 31/12/1869
Died on : 03/11/1954
Profile : Designer, Painter, Sculptor
Artistic current(s) : Fauvism
Theme(s) covered : Details, Flowers - plants, Still life, Landscapes - Nature, Portraits - Characters, Colors and materials

Henri Matisse (PH2455)