Henri Matisse Artist

Henri Matisse was a famous French artist and an innovator of the modern art movement alongside his good friend, Pablo Picasso.

The woman in the hat (1905)

He is best known for his vivid use of clashing colours and his ability to successfully use many forms of artistic expression.

Sculpture, painting and paper

Early Life

Henri Emile Benoît Matisse was born in Le Cateau-Cambrésis on 31st December 1869. He went to school at the College de Saint Quentin, before moving to Paris to study law. In 1889, he returned to Saint-Quentin as a law clerk, though he found the job tedious. Later that year he was ill with an appendicitis and spent several months at home recovering. During that time, at the age of 20, he discovered the freedom of painting.

“From the moment I held the box of colors in my hands, I knew this was my life. I threw myself into it like a beast that plunges towards the thing it loves.” Henri Matisse

Early Paintings

In 1891, he studied at the Academie Julian in Paris, learning from the artists William-Adolphe Bouguereau and Gustave Moreau.

Impressionist style paintings prior to 1900

Matisse's early paintings were traditional and maintained realistic shadow and line. He focussed on painting landscape and still-life in a traditional style and colour. However, following a meeting with the Australian artist, John Peter Russell, Matisse’s style changed. He started to produce work influenced by the work of Paul Cézanne.


The Moroccans (1916)

Matisse's painting moved away from the Impressionist style and began to take on a more unrealistic nature. He began to use strong colours, particularly those that clashed, and twisted form. He became part of the Fauves (wild beasts), and exhibited his work alongside Georges Braque, Raoul Dufy and Gustave Moreau.

Matisse began to use alternate colours and shapes for everyday objects


In his late sixties, when ill health first prevented Matisse from painting, he began to cut into painted paper with scissors to make large pieces of art known as 'cut-outs'. In time, Matisse preferred cut-outs over his paintings: he had invented the art medium which would become his most recognised form.

The cut-outs were labelled by Matisse as 'painting with scissors'.

A small sample of Matisse's cut-outs.

The size of Matisse's 'cut-outs' are extraordinary.

Matisse's most famous cut-out, 'The Snail' (1953).

Matisse died of heart failure in 1954. He was 84.

Matisse’s son, Pierre, helped open a gallery in Nice, which exhibits the work of his father and ensures his artistic talent can be enjoyed by future generations.

Henri Matisse (1869 - 1954)

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