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Who is Henri Matisse?

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  • Written By: J. Beam
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 05 October 2014
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Henri Matisse was a French artist who is often regarded as the most influential French painter of the 20th century. Leading the Fauvist movement, Henri Matisse is well known for his use of vividly expressive color and has varied works and styles of art that span over half a century. With many of his works displayed in various museums, Henri Matisse is ranked amongst some of the greatest artists of all time including Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh, and Michelangelo.

Henri Matisse was born in France in 1869. Despite the fact he studied law, he began painting in 1889 and decided to become an artist. Matisse was influenced by Impressionism and begun with still-lifes and landscapes. Henri Matisse sold his first paintings in 1896. During the early 1900s, Henri Matisse met Pablo Picasso, who became a friendly rival of sorts.

The work of Matisse and Picasso is often compared and though the main difference between the two is seen in Matisse’s painting of the real while Picasso often painted from his imagination, many critics believe Matisse had more dominance and control. Thus, though Matisse is credited with leading the Fauvist movement, many do not view him as wild and uncontrolled, as the term Les Fauves suggested.

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In 1910, Henri Matisse’s Still Life with Geranium was the first of his paintings to be acquired by public collection and displayed in Pinakothek der Moderne, a modern art museum in Germany. In November of 2007, L’Odalisque, Harmonie Bleue, which Matisee painted in 1937 sold at an auction at Christie’s Rockefeller Center for $30 million (US Dollars), a record amount for a Henri Matisse work.

One of his final works, Le Bateau was reported to have been hung upside down on display at The Museum of Modern Art during an art exhibition honoring his last works. Matisse also published a book entitled Jazz, which contained paper collages and written thoughts of Matisse. In addition to painting and art, Matisse also worked as a graphic designer and illustrator during the 1940s. Henri Matisse lived to be 84 years old before he died of a heart attack in 1954. He is entombed alongside his wife, Noellie, in Cimiez, France.

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