Born in 1869, Henri Matisse was a widely influential French painter who lived in the early 20th century. He was really more of an intellectual artist than an emotional artist, although you might not guess that from his work alone.
You would guess it from his previous occupation, however. Before he was a painter, Matisse studied law and even worked for a few years in a law office. He actually began painting during a serious illness when he couldn’t work, but apparently that was all it took.
By the age of 23 he had enough of law and decided to pursue art as a career.
Like his contemporary, Pablo Picasso, Matisse tried out several different styles of painting before becoming known for one particular thing. And while Picasso became known for his Cubist paintings, Matisse simply became known for his color.
His paintings really shocked viewers at first, not because of their subject matter but because they were created with deliberately unnatural colors in jarring combinations.
And while everyone would agree that Matisse’s work exemplified the Fauvist art movement, you can see the influence of painters like Van Gogh and Gauguin in his art as well.
In his own way, Matisse greatly influenced other painters (like Georges Braque) by helping them break away from 19th century artistic ideas.
Matisse began to have health problems late in life that restricted him to a wheelchair and made it impossible for him to paint.
As a result, his last works are similar to the one below, made with colored paper cut into shapes and collaged together.
Henri Matisse died in 1954 at the age of 85.
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