Henri Matisse was born in Le Cateau in Picardy, France. In 1891 he abandoned a legal career to study under Bouguereau and Moreau. Here, he painted still lifes and landscapes in a sober range of colours.
In 1905 Matisse exhibited at the Salon d'Automne and the works exhibited here gave birth to the Fauves, or "wild beasts". Matisse was the principal artist of the Fauve movement, which was characterized by the use of bright colours. His use of bright colours continued, peaking in 1917 when he began to spend time on the French Riviera in Nice and Venice. Particularly colourful were his interiors and still lifes of tropical fruits and flowers. The colour radiance of these pictures sum up his knowledge of how colours and shapes could come to life spectacularly when set in context. Later, he would turn away from this movement where he abandoned three-dimensional effects in favour of dramatically simplified areas of pure colour, flat shape and strong patterns.
Matisse is often regarded as the most important French painter of the 20th century. His visionary experiments into different styles of painting - from his impressionistic domestic and figurative subjects to his abstract cutouts - changed our perception of the world.
Matisse was a nervous man and he coaxed his anxiety into serenity through painting. In his later years, while bed ridden, Matisse became well known for his abstract works made of cutouts in coloured paper mixed with gouache and crayons.
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