5 Fun Facts About Henri Matisse

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Photograph of Henri Matisse
Photograph of Henri Matisse

1. Originally, Matisse studied and trained to become a lawyer. He graduated from law school in Paris and worked as a clerk in a law office in 1889.

2. In 1889, at the age of 21, Matisse suffered from an acute appendicitis that would actually lead him to discover his passion for creating art. After he underwent surgery, he had a very long recovery time. To ease his boredom, his mother gave him a paint box and the rest was history. After he recovered, he returned to work at the law office but found it difficult to give up his painting. Every morning before he went to work he attended drawing classes and was constantly painting during his lunch breaks and throughout the night. It consumed his life.

Matisse painting a model from life
Matisse painting a model from life

3. Matisse’s styles changed vastly at the beginning of his career after encounters with very famous artists. At first, he was mainly painting landscapes and still-lifes in a more traditional style. After meeting the Australian artist, John Peter Russell, Matisse began to create works that showed influence of the Impressionist movement. His greatest influence was the French artist Paul Cezanne. He eventually became a part of the Fauves, or wild beasts, movement and exhibited his paintings alongside artists such as Georges Braque, Raoul Dufy and Gustave Moreau.

4. Matisse was ‘frienemies’ with Pablo Picasso. They did not like each other’s paintings at first; however, they both seemed to sense the power each had to challenge and stimulate creativity within the other. Throughout their lives each would keep a close eye on the other’s work. They would often produce the same subjects and even sometimes works with the same titles. The artists had an exhibition at The Tate Modern in London, England that concentrated on the juxtaposition of their similar works. They never actually met face to face at this time. Their relationship could be described as a competition or a meticulously plotted chess game. Matisse once referred to it as a boxing match. In 1906, the two artists finally met. The meeting was set up by the well-known American art collector and avant-garde writer, Gertrude Stein. Regardless of their competitive nature, both ended up respecting the other as a person and a creative being.

Matisse working on his artwork in bed
Matisse working on his artwork in bed

5. Matisse was in a wheel chair during his later years; which resulted in him creating some of his most well-known cut-out pieces. After he could no longer stand for extended periods of time, Matisse began creating works using a pair of scissors and paper. He used a long stick to assemble them on his walls until he was happy with the arrangement. He called this technique ‘painting with scissors’.

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