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HENRI MATISSE BIOGRAPHY

Written by: Anitra Redlefsen [Anitra is a teaching artist - www.artisjoy.com]
“To find joy in the sky, the trees, the flowers… There are always flowers for those who want to see them.”
- Matisse

Henri Matisse was born December 31, 1869 in northern France. As a young man, he went to Paris to study law, graduated, and in 1889 returned home to work as a clerk in a law office. It was at this time that he had an acute attack of appendicitis, requiring surgery and a long convalescence. His mother gave him a paint box, and at the age of 21, Matisse discovered painting. He returned to work, and every morning before work, he attended drawing classes; at lunch time he would paint for an hour or so, and then return to work. After work he would paint till night fell. It was his life.

In 1891 set off for Paris. Despite that one of his first teachers told Matisse that he would never learn to draw, he worked hard and was sponsored as a candidate for the school for fine arts. He failed the entrance exam and enrolled instead in an evening school. He later joined the studio of symbolist/Mannerism painter Gustove Moreau, who encouraged the young Matisse “to look inward.” Matissse began his journey of studies which ultimately lead him to merge his love of the work of the old masters, his weakness for ornament, and his love of line, shape and color.

Matisse felt that his greatest influence had been the work of the artist Cezanne (1839 – 1906, French).

In the 1950‘s, Matisse began creating paintings using paint and paper cut outs. He produced many paintings and designs using this technique.

In his last years, as he aged and fell ill, Matisse continued to paint, this time on the walls of his room, using a piece of charcoal attached to the end of a bamboo pole. He painted until his death in 1954.

Matisse had strong feelings about only one thing, the act of painting. This to him was an experience so profoundly joyous that he wanted to transmit it to the beholder in all its freshness and immediacy. The purpose of this pictures, he always asserted, was to give pleasure.

For Matisse, painting was the rhythmic arrangement of line and color on a flat plane. He had created the technique of striking contrasts, unmixed hues, flat planes of color (similar to Gauguin, 1848 – 1903, French) and expressive brush strokes (similar to Van Gogh, 1853 – 1890, Dutch). Light was expressed, not in the method of the Impressionists, but with a harmony of intensely covered surfaces.

Matisse Lesson Plans:

Expression and Joy
Meet Matisse
Matisse Cut-Outs
Positive/Negative Shapes, Shamrocks and Matisse

Recommended Books/Products:
Matisse for Kids
by: Margaret Hyde

Henri Matisse (Getting to Know the World's Greatest Artists)
by: Mike Venezia


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