French artist Henri Matisse sadly passed away on November 3rd 1954. Born 31 December 1869 in Le Cateau-Cambrésis, Nord, he is known for his use of colour and his fluid and original draughtsmanship. Matisse was a draughtsman, printmaker, and sculptor, but is known primarily as a painter commonly regarded, along with Picasso and Marcel Duchamp, as one of the three artists who helped to define the revolutionary developments in the plastic arts in the opening decades of the 20th century, responsible for significant developments in painting and sculpture. Although he was initially labelled a Fauve (wild beast), by the 1920s he was increasingly hailed as an upholder of the classical tradition in French painting. His mastery of the expressive language of colour and drawing, displayed in a body of work spanning over a half-century, won him recognition as a leading figure in modern art.
Matisse was also recognized as a leader of an artistic movement known as Fauvism which began 1900 and continued beyond 1910. The leaders of the movement were Matisse & André Derain; who were friendly rivals, each with his own followers. Other members were Georges Braque, Raoul Dufy and Maurice de Vlaminck. The Symbolist painter Gustave Moreau (1826–1898) was the movement’s inspirational teacher who pushed his students to think outside of the lines of formality and to follow their visions. In 1905, Matisse and a group of artists exhibited together & The paintings expressed emotion with wild, often dissonant colours, without regard for the subject’s natural colours. Matisse showed Open Window and Woman with the Hat at the Salon. Matisses’s fondnes for bright and expressive colour became more pronounced after he spent the summer of 1904 painting in St. Tropez with the neo-Impressionists Signac and Henri Edmond Cross. In 1904 he painted the most important of his works , Luxe, Calme et Volupté. In 1905 he travelled southwards again to work with André Derain. His paintings of this period are characterized by flat shapes and controlled lines, and use pointillism in a less rigorous way than before.
Around April 1906 he met Pablo Picasso, & The two became lifelong friends as well as rivals and are often compared; one key difference between them is that Matisse drew and painted from nature, while Picasso was much more inclined to work from imagination. The subjects painted most frequently by both artists were women and still life. Matisse and Picasso were first brought together at the Paris salon of Gertrude Stein and her companion Alice B. Toklas, who became important collectors and supporters of Matisse’s paintings during the first decade of the 20th century. They also collected many paintings by Renoir, Cézanne, and Picasso at the Salon. Gertrude Stein’s two American friends , the Cone sisters Claribel and Etta,also became major patrons of Matisse and Picasso, collecting hundreds of their paintings. The Cone collection is now exhibited in the Baltimore Museum of Art.
In 1917 Matisse relocated to Cimiez on the French Riviera, a suburb of the city of Nice. His work of the decade or so following this relocation shows a relaxation and a softening of his approach. After 1930 a new vigor and bolder simplification appeared in his work. American art collector Albert C. Barnes convinced him to produce a large mural for the Barnes Foundation, The Dance II, completed 1932; the Foundation owns several dozen other Matisse paintings. This move towards simplification and a foreshadowing of the cutout technique are also evident in his painting Large Reclining Nude.In 1941, he underwent surgery and started using a wheelchair, and was cared for by , Lydia Delektorskaya who was formerly one of his models, Then With the aid of assistants he set about creating cut paper collages, often on a large scale, called gouaches découpés. His Blue Nudes series feature prime examples of this technique he called “painting with scissors”;
During World War II Matisse, was shocked to learn that his daughter Marguerite, was active in the Résistance and had been captured & tortured in Rennes prison and sentenced to the Ravensbrück concentration camp, but avoided further imprisonment by escaping from the Ravensbrück-bound train and survived in the woods until rescued by fellow members of the Resistance. In 1947 Matisse published Jazz, a limited-edition book containing about one hundred prints based on his colorful paper cutouts accompanied by his written thoughts. In the 1940s he also worked as a graphic artist and produced black-and-white illustrations for several books and over one hundred original lithographs at the Mourlot Studios in Paris. Matisse was much admired and repeatedly referred to by the Greek Nobelist poet Odysseas Elytis. Elytis was introduced to Matisse through their common friend Tériade, during the work on the Cutouts. Matisse had painted the wall of the dining room of Tériade’s residence, the Villa Natacha in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat.
In 1951 Matisse finished designing the interior, the glass windows and the decorations of the Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence, often referred to as the Matisse Chapel. This project was the result of the close friendship between Matisse and Sister Jacques-Marie’ He had hired her as a nurse and model in 1941 before she became a Dominican nun and they met again in Vence and started the collaboration. In 1952 he established a museum dedicated to his work, the Matisse Museum in Le Cateau, and this museum is now the third-largest collection of Matisse works in France. Matisse’s final work was the design for a stained-glass window installed at the Union Church of Pocantico Hills near the Rockefeller estate north of New York City. “It was his final artistic creation; the maquette was on the wall of his bedroom when he died in November of 1954 of a heart attack at the age of 84. He is interred in the cemetery of the Monastère Notre Dame de Cimiez, near Nice. A large amount of Nazi plundered art worth €1bn in Munich, including lost works by Picasso and Matisse, has also recently been discovered.