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b. 1869, Le Cateau-Cambrésis, France; d. 1954, Nice
Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse was born on December 31, 1869, in Le Cateau-Cambrésis, France. He grew up in Bohain-en-Vermandois and studied law in Paris from 1887 to 1888. By 1891 he had abandoned law and started to paint. In Paris Matisse studied art briefly at the Académie Julian and then at the École des Beaux-Arts with Gustave Moreau.
In 1901 Matisse exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris and met another future leader of the Fauve movement, Maurice de Vlaminck. His first solo show took place at the Galerie Vollard in 1904. Both Leo and Gertrude Stein, as well as Etta and Claribel Cone, began to collect Matisse’s work at that time. Like many avant-garde artists in Paris, Matisse was receptive to a broad range of influences. He was one of the first painters to take an interest in “primitive” art. Matisse abandoned the palette of the Impressionists and established his characteristic style, with its flat, brilliant color and fluid line. His subjects were primarily women, interiors, and still lifes. In 1913 his work was included in the Armory Show in New York. By 1923 two Russians, Sergei Shchukin and Ivan Morozov, had purchased nearly 50 of his paintings.
From the early 1920s until 1939, Matisse divided his time primarily between the south of France and Paris. During this period, he worked on paintings, sculptures, lithographs, and etchings, as well as on murals for the Barnes Foundation, Merion, Pennsylvania, designs for tapestries, and set and costume designs for Léonide Massine’s ballet Rouge et noir. While recuperating from two major operations in 1941 and 1942, Matisse concentrated on a technique he had devised earlier: papiers découpés (paper cutouts). Jazz, written and illustrated by Matisse, was published in 1947; the plates are stencil reproductions of paper cutouts. In 1948 he began the design for the decoration of Chapelle du Rosaire in Vence, which was completed and consecrated in 1951. The same year a major retrospective of his work was presented at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and then traveled to Cleveland, Chicago, and San Francisco. In 1952 the Musée Matisse was inaugurated at the artist’s birthplace of Le Cateau–Cambrésis. Matisse continued to make large paper cutouts, the last of which was a design for the rose window at Union Church of Pocantico Hills, New York. He died on November 3, 1954, in Nice.