Henry Matisse

Henri Matisse, one of the lions of the Modern era and an artist whose sensual forms and pure colors conveyed the philosophy of “luxe, calme and volupte,” was born on New Year’s eve in 1869. Influenced heavily by Cézanne, Henri Matisse was also a friend and contemporary of Picasso and Gertrude Stein. His brilliant colors and primitive forms shocked critics, who dubbed Matisse and the painters in his circle the “Fauves,” a French word for “beasts.” His greatest artworks combine form and content in a way that evokes in the viewer intense responses of joy and unity.

Henri Matisse is known for his still lifes, his interiors, and his nudes—all of which make up a vivid emotional landscape in which childlike shapes reveal a sophisticated interplay of color and form. The painter also created murals and designed stained glass windows, integrating architecture and images in a way that allowed him to “express himself fully.”

Late in his life, Henri Matisse’s hands lost their ability to control a paintbrush with precision. Thus he began work in one of his last great media, the cutouts. The “Jazz” series is perhaps the most well known of these projects. The bright, clear shapes, snipped freehand from paper, expressed, for Matisse the “crystallizations of memories.” They combine the joyousness of form with a sense of nostalgia, are simultaneously naïve and imbued with the power of a master who can strip an image of extraneous detail, revealing its vibrant core.


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