Henri Matisse

Today, along with the preparations for the New Year’s Eve festivities, we are celebrating the 142nd birthday of one of the most prominent figures in modern art – Henri Matisse.

Nu drapé étendu by Matisse

Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse was born in Le Cateau-Cambrésis, France, on 31 December 1869.  Having studied law and worked in a law office in Paris, Matisse discovered his passion for art by accident. Following an attack of appendicitis, his mother brought him art supplies during the period of convalescence. “From the moment I held the box of colours in my hands, I knew this was my life. I threw myself into it like a beast that plunges towards the thing it loves”, he recalled later.

Belle-Île by Matisse Nature morte aux oranges by Matisse

In 1891, he began to study art, however, he strongly opposed the rigid and restrictive ways of teaching. It was again his mother who encouraged him not to follow the “rules” of art, but to listen to his emotions.

Les trois soeurs by Matisse Marguerite by Matisse

Guided by emotions, Matisse continuously experimented with styles, from neoclassicism to fauvism, from impressionism to near abstraction. He also varied the forms of artistic expression, turning from painting to sculpture, from drawing to paper cut-outs. Throughout his career, he also produced 12 illustrated books, known as “livre d’artiste”, that demonstrate his creative genius.

Jazz by Matisse

One of Matisse’s most famous illustrated books, Jazz, containing paper collages and his thoughts, was published during “une seconde vie”, a second life, which is how he called the last fourteen years of his life after he was diagnosed with cancer. With another chance to life, Matisse also received renewed energies to express and to create. “Painting with scissors”, as he called it, was what constituted his real self – free and liberated, Matisse said.

Polynésie, le ciel by Matisse

Matisse never tried to literally reproduce an object, but to express emotions this object projected upon him. See a full palette of emotions in his paintings and learn more about Matisse on Europeana.

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