Henri Matisse

Written by Blaire Chandler-Wilcox
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Henri Matisse (French, 1869-1954) is, along with Picasso, considered to be the most influential and important artist of the 20th century. Just as his life spanned times of extraordinary popular and political upheaval, his work draws on multiple, often divergent inspirations. Matisse was at times an impressionist, a fauvist, a traditionalist, and an abstract expressionist. But through it all he remained true to his own vision and blazed his own trails within all these styles.

Matisse once said that he wanted his art to have the same effect as a good armchair on a tired businessman. Unlike his contemporaries, his work does not suggest that it was inspired by pain or the need for violent change. Matisse's paintings have a serene and joyous quality to them, and convey a sense of comfort, refuge, and balanced satisfaction.

Henri Matisse always considered himself a student of other artists. He was grounded in tradition, and closely studied the work of Cezanne and Manet, and was influenced greatly by Seurat. However, his greatest and most constant influence was his own emotional reaction to color.

Henri Matisse: Color Me Happy

Throughout every phase of his career, from early experiments with impressionism to latter pieces of abstract expressionism, the one constant is his exuberant experimentation with color. Henri Matisse preferred to communicate emotional reactions to, rather than literal representations of, his subjects. To achieve this, he used color to express serenity, curiosity, and physical ecstasy. As a result, works as seemingly stylistically different as Icarus from Jazz, Inattentive Reader, and Dance I all convey varying degrees of contented bliss, the desire for which never goes out of style.


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