Henri Matisse (1869-1954)

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Henri Matisse (1869-1954)


Henri Matisse (December 31, 1869, Le Cateau-Cambrésis, France  – Deceased: November 3, 1954, Nice, France), whose full name was Henri Émile Benoît Matisse, went down in art history as an important French draftsman, painter, graphic artist and sculptor. Along with Pablo Picasso, Matisse is the most important artist of classical modernism. Matisse and André Derain were the main exponents of Fauvism, the first artistic movement of the 20th century.

Henri Matisse’s artistic life began at the École des Arts décoratifs (School of Applied Arts) and continued from 1893 at the École des Beaux-Arts as a student of the painter Gustave Moreau. The acquaintance with the painter Émile Auguste Wéry (1868-1935), who introduced him to the Impressionist color palette in 1896, was important for Henri Matisse’s artistic work. In 1897 and 1898 Matisse was introduced to the Impressionist style of painting by John Peter Russell on Belle-Île. Finally, Vincent van Gogh’s work influenced Matisse’s painting style, while Russell shaped his color theory. In 1899 Henri Matisse studied at the Académie Julian and met André Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck. And buys Paul Cézanne’s „The Three Bathers“ from Vollard.


Henri Matisse’s works can be classified into different artistic epochs, all of which he decisively shaped:

  • fauvism,
  • Impressionism,
  • modern art,
  • post-impressionism,
  • modern,
  • and Neo-Impressionism.


With his silhouettes (gouaches découpées) created in the 1940s, Henri Matisse was able to convert all attempts at reduction into color and ornamentation in his late work.


Henri Matisse’s work encompasses many periods that document a constant development of the artist’s „inner expression“.

  • The early work can be dated to around 1900.
  • The Fauve period (1900–1908) followed;
  • and then his Experimental Period (1908–1917)
  • it gets exciting in the Nice period (1917-1929)
  • then Matisse finds a period of renewed simplicity (1929–1940)
  • and limited to the essentials from 1940-1954 due to health reasons
  • Henri Matisse’s graphic work is closely linked to book illustrations


Drawings and studies relating to his works have survived, allowing the course of his working processes to be traced. Around 1900, Henri Matisse became more and more interested in graphic work and started to etch. In this early period Matisse created about 62 works in aquatint and 68 monotypes as well as 70 linocuts and 1906/07 also four woodcuts. Henri Matisse created 26 full-page illustrations for James Joyce’s 1935 novel Ulysses, depicting Homer’s Odyssey.


After 1939 Henri Matisse increasingly worked graphically and created (mostly) black and white illustrations for the following books:

Illustrations to Henry de Montherlants Pasiphaé (1944),
Pierre Reverdy’s Visages (1946),
Mariana Alcaforado’s Lettres portugaises (1946),
Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du Mal (1947),
Pierre de Ronsard’s Florilège des Amours (1948)
and Charles d’Orléans‘ Poèmes (1950).
The artist’s book „Jazz“, which was published in 1947 and in which Matisse reflects on „art and life“ was out of the ordinary – it contains colored illustrations.


Exhibitions of the works of Henri Matisse

1955 documenta I, in Kassel
1959 documenta II, in Kassel
1964 documenta III, in Kassel

1904: First solo exhibition at Ambroise Vollard, Paris
1905: Group exhibition in the Salon d’Automne – this is where the term „Fauvism“ was coined
1910: First exhibition at Bernheim-Jeune, Paris
1919/1920: Exhibitions at Bernheim-Jeune, Paris
1931–1933: Retrospectives in Berlin, Paris, Basel, New York
1934/35: Several exhibitions in the New York gallery of his son Pierre Matisse
1945: Retrospective at the Salon d’Automne
1945: joint exhibition with Picasso in London
1949: Exhibition „New Works“, Musée National d’Art Moderne, Paris
1952: Opening of the Musée Matisse, Le Cateau-Cambrésis (Matisse’s hometown)
1953: Exhibition of the paper cuts at the Berggruen Gallery, Paris
1953: Exhibition of his sculptures, London
1963: Opening of the Musée Matisse, Nice
2002: Matisse-Picasso. Tate Modern, London;
Traveling exhibition: Les Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais, Paris; Museum of Modern Art, New York
2007: Matisse Jazz. The Musée Matisse as a guest in Nuremberg. Germanisches Nationalmuseum & Musee Matisse, Nuremberg
2008/2009: Matisse – People Masks Models. State Gallery in Stuttgart & Bucerius Art Forum, Hamburg
2009/2010: Matisse – Rodin, a rencontre entre deux maîtres de l’art modern, Musée Matisse, Nice; & Musee Rodin, Paris
2010/11: Cézanne – Picasso – Giacometti. Masterpieces from the Fondation Beyeler, Leopold Museum, Vienna
2012/13: In the frenzy of colour. Munch, Matisse and the Expressionists. Folkwang Museum, Essen
2013/14: Matisse and the Fauves. Albertina, Vienna
2014: Henri Matisse: The Cut Outs. Tate Gallery of Modern Art, London
2015/16: Matisse Prints & Drawings, Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore
2016/17: Henri Matisse – Making the Hand Sing. Art Museum Pablo Picasso, Munster
2017/18: Matisse – Bonnard: „Long live painting!“ Städel, Frankfurt am Main
2017/18: Desire makes all things bloom… Van Gogh to Cézanne, Bonnard to Matisse. Kunstmuseum Bern
2019/20: Inspiration Matisse. Kunsthalle Mannheim
2020: Van Gogh, Cezanne, Matisse, Hodler. The Hahnloser Collection. Albertina, Vienna
2020/21: Matisse, come un roman. Center Georges Pompidou, Paris


catalog raisonné

Marguerite Duthuit, the artist’s daughter, and Claude Duthuit, his grandson, published an extensive catalog raisonné de l’Œuvre Gravé (see below) which lists around 800 prints from 1908 and 1948 and 300 etchings and 300 Lithographs from the period 1906 to 1952 are documented.

  • Pierre Schneider, Massimo Carrà: Tout l’Œuvre peint de Matisse 1904-1928. Paris 1982
  • Claude Duthuit, Marguerite Duthuit-Matisse (eds.): Henri Matisse. Catalog Raisonné de l’Œuvre Gravé. Two volumes. Paris, 1983
  • Claude Duthuit (ed.): Henri Matisse. Catalog Raisonné des Ouvrages Illustrées. Paris, 1988
  • Claude Duthuit (ed.): Henri Matisse. Catalog Raisonné de l’Œuvre Sculpté. Duthuit, Paris 1997


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