Today, City Connect celebrates the anniversary of the birth of French artist Henri Matisse who was born on 31 December 1869.
Henri Matisse was a French artist, known for his use of colour and his fluid and original draughtsmanship. He was a draughtsman, printmaker, and sculptor, but is known primarily as a painter. Matisse is 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.
Around April 1906 he met Pablo Picasso, who was 12 years younger than Matisse. The two became life-long 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, with Matisse more likely to place his figures in fully realized interiors.
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. This “return to order” is characteristic of much art of the post-World War I period, and can be compared with the neoclassicism of Picasso and Stravinsky, and the return to traditionalism of Derain. His orientalist odalisque paintings are characteristic of the period; while this work was popular, some contemporary critics found it shallow and decorative.
In 1941, Matisse underwent surgery in which a colostomy was performed. Afterwards he started using a wheelchair, and until his death he was cared for by a Russian woman, Lydia Delektorskaya, formerly one of his models. 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”; they demonstrate the ability to bring his eye for colour and geometry to a new medium of utter simplicity, but with playful and delightful power.
Matisse died of a heart attack at the age of 84 in 1954. He is interred in the cemetery of the Monastère Notre Dame de Cimiez, near Nice.
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