Henri Matisse, the artist who revolutionized European art

Henri Émile Benoît Matisse was born in 1869 in France. Along with Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse is considered one of the artists who has most revolutionized European artistic aesthetics. He is considered a fauve, from the artistic movement known as fauvism that was part of European modernism. Matisse is considered the leader of Fauvism. Even Andy Warhol wanted to be Henri Matisse because of the artist’s incredible genius.

Henri Matisse studied at the Académie Julian, a private school of art and sculpture in Paris. The artist also learned art from academic painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau. Matisse’s teacher was an artist who did works with the aesthetics of Neoclassicism, with artistic nudes and a certain imitation of the Greco-Roman ideal that was in fashion in Europe at that time.

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The two bathers, Bouguereau.

Europe was saturated with this aesthetic of artistic nudes inspired by the Greco-Roman ideal.

Matisse also studied Japanese art and French Baroque artists like Nicolas Poussin. The artist started making works with themes of traditional landscape and still life. His first painting was The Still Life with Books. A classic painting with the influence of academic painting.

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Still Life with Books, Henri Matisse. (pinterest)

His first painting in no way resembles his revolutionary works that he would later do. The artist begins to learn from Gustave Moreau in his studio, his new teacher Moreau is one of the artists who begins to move away from academic aesthetics and makes Matisse think about painting and encourages him to seek his individuality in painting.

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Copy of Botticelli’s Birth of Venus by Gustave Moreau. (wikipedia)

Matisse participates in the Paris Salon exhibition, and during his travels he visits the Luxembourg Museum where he discovers impressionism. The artist also reads the treatise written by Paul Signac, From Eugene Delacroix to Neoimpressionism. Henri Matisse acquires the painting The Three Bathers, by Paul Cézzane.

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The three bathers, Paul Cézanne. (wikipedia)

Henri Matisse becomes a great admirer of Paul Cézanne and refuses to sell this painting, even in the most difficult times of his life. The artist also exhibits his paintings at the Salon des indépendants, which was an artistic exhibition made in 1884 in Paris.

His paintings at this time were still about still life and landscapes and it is possible to see the artist refining his technique and creating the individual style that he seeks so much.

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Le Mur Rose, Henri Matisse. (wikipedia)

His works start to gain more colors and he uses these colors to compose more vivid paintings, different from the monotony of colors characteristic of academic painting at this time. His period with Gustave Moreau yielded an evolution from the sameness of perfection preached by art academies to a more free and creative technique.

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Study of the nude, Henri Matisse. (wikipedia)

In 1904 Henri Matisse was a student of Paul Signac, a neo-impressionist. Signac is an artist who uses a large composition of bright colors and white and pearly colors, presenting a large palette and a technical mastery of colors.

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Portrait of Felix Fénéon, Paul Signac. (wikipedia)

Henri Matisse became a fauvista when he and other artists participated in the Salon d’Automne exhibition in 1905, this word, fauve, was used by art critic Louis Vauxcelles, who used this term fauve to refer to artists who exhibited colorful art, who used wild colors running away from what would be natural colors for the subjects they painted.

In this exhibition, Matisse exhibited his famous work Woman with a hat, a painting made using his wife, Amelie Matisse, as a model.

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Woman with hat, Matisse. (wikipedia)

Along with other artists such as André Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck he received the nickname fauve. Vauxcelles used the phrase “Donatello chez les fauves” (Donatello among the beasts). Fauvist works were criticized by many people who were used to the style of academic painting that existed at the time.

Gustave Moreau is considered the inspiring teacher of the Fauvist movement since he was the master of many of the Fauve artists. Despite attacks by some on the work Woman with a Hat from Matisse, this painting was sold for five hundred francs, a fortune at the time. This painting is currently on display at the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco in the United States and is valued at thousands of dollars.

In another exhibition that he participated in 1907, his painting “Nu bleu, Souvenir de Biskra” caused a great controversy and an effigy of this work was burned at the Armory Show in the city of Chicago. Legend has it that this work was partly responsible for Pablo Picasso creating Les Demoiselles d’Avignon.

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Blue nude, Matisse.

Pablo Picasso met Henri Matisse in 1906, and the two exhibited their respective arts at the Paul Guillaume gallery in Paris. Matisse was not limited to favismo, and after the decline of the movement the artist sought other inspirations. The artist traveled to Algeria to study African art, and then traveled to Morocco, and saw an Islamic art exhibition in Munich, and the painter did L’Atelier Rouge in 1911.

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L’Atelier Rouge, Henri Matisse (wikipedia)

This work is part of the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. During the years of World War II, Matisse thought about fleeing Paris during the Nazi occupation but ended up giving up and staying in the city. He was eventually forced to sign a document declaring himself Aryan. In 1941, the artist was diagnosed with duodenal cancer and ended up weakened after surgery to treat this cancer.

Despite the health problems, the artist continues to innovate and make art. Henri Matisse dies of a heart attack in 1954.

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