Along with Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse was regarded as one of the greatest figures in 20th-century art, a master of color and form, and the leader of the group of artists known as the Fauves. Unlike many artists, he was internationally popular during his lifetime and enjoyed the favor of collectors, art critics, and the younger generation of artists who followed him.
In 1892, having given up a career in law, Matisse went to Paris to study art formally. His teachers were academically trained and relatively conservative in style, but Matisse also studied more contemporary art, especially that of the Impressionists. Matisse's true artistic liberation, in terms of using color to render forms and organize spatial planes, came through the influence Paul Gauguin, Paul Cezanne and Vincent van Gogh, whose work he studied closely beginning about 1899. Then, in 1903 and 1904, Matisse encountered the pointillist paintings of Henri Edmond Cross and Paul Signac. Cross and Signac were experimenting with juxtaposing small strokes (often dots or “points”) of pure pigment to create the strongest visual vibration of intense color. Matisse adopted their technique and modified them repeatedly, usually using broader strokes. He also embarked upon an exploration of printmaking, with an emphasis on linocuts, lithography and etching, that would propel his creativity into other media.
By 1905, Matisse had produced some of the boldest color images ever created, and exhibited his paintings along with works by Andre Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck. Together, the group was dubbed les fauves (literally, “the wild beasts”) because of the extreme emotionalism in which they seemed to have indulged, their use of vivid colors, and their distortion of shapes.
Although intellectually sophisticated, Matisse always emphasized the importance of instinct and intuition in the production of a work of art. He argued that an artist did not have complete control over color and form; instead, colors, shapes, and lines would come to dictate their own relation to one another. He often emphasized his joy in abandoning himself to the play of the forces of color and design.
"Creativity takes courage." - Henri Matisse
Orientale a la Croix Trifoliee.
1929. Original lithograph. Hand signed. From the edition of 50. 25 3/4 x 19 3/4”.
L'Enterrement de Pierrot.
1947. Original pochoir after Matisse's cut paper collage maquette of the same title. From the edition of 250. One of 20 pochoirs illustrating the artist's own text in the book, JAZZ. 16 1/2 x 25 3/4".
La Cage de Perruches.
1929. Original copper plate used in the etching of the same title. Etching published in an edition of 25. Inscribed signature in the plate lower center.