| Matisse, Henri Biography
French artist, leader of the fauve groupregarded as one of the great formative figures in 20th-century art, a master of the use of color and form to convey emotional expression.
Henri Matisse was born in Le Cateau in northern France on December 31, 1869. The son of a middle-class family, he studied and began to practice law. In 1892, having given up his law career, he went to Paris to study art formally. His first teachers were academically trained and relatively conservative; Matisse's own early style was a conventional form of naturalism.
Matisse's true artistic liberation, in terms of the use of color to render forms and organize spatial planes, came about first through the influence of the French painters Paul Gauguin and Paul C?zanne and the Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh, whose work he studied closely beginning about 1899. By 1905 he had produced some of the boldest color images ever created. In the same year Matisse exhibited this and similar oil paintings along with art works by his artist companions, including Andre Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck. Together, the group was dubbed les fauves (literally, "the wild beasts") because of the extremes of emotionalism in which they seemed to have indulged, their use of vivid colors, and their distortion of shapes.
While he was regarded as a leader of radicalism in the arts, Matisse was beginning to gain the approval of a number of influential critics and collectors, including the American expatriate writer Gertrude Stein. His images of dancers and of human figures in general, convey expressive form first and the particular details of anatomy only secondarily.
From the 1920s until his death, Matisse spent much time in the south of France, particularly Nice, painting local scenes with a thin, fluid application of bright color. Henri Matisse died in Nice on November 3, 1954.
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