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Unanimously considered as one of the greatest artists of the twentieth century, Henri Matisse escapes any classification. He is one of the promoters of Fauvism, but, from a revolt of color, his art is a reflection on the line, balance, and synthesis of forms.
Henri Émile Benoît Matisse, French painter, draughtsman and sculptor, was born on December 31, 1869 in Cateau-Cambrésis and died in Nice on November 3, 1954.
Destined to become a notary's clerk, it was during a long recovery due to an appendicitis that Matisse began painting.
He once said, "[...] For me it was the paradise found in which I was completely free, tranquil, confident while I was always a little anxious, bored and worried in the different things I was made to do."
Matisse painted his first picture in 1890, at the age of 21. Two years later, he went to Paris to study at the École des Beaux-Arts, in the studio of Gustave Moreau.
From his very first classes with Moreau, Matisse embarked on an insatiable quest for simplicity, both aesthetically and philosophically.
Throughout his career, the same themes can be found in his work: open windows, lounging women, his universe is one of laziness that is totally antithetical to its creator and, above all, a pretext for exploring the artistic field. "Work cures all" said Matisse.
Son of a grain merchant from Le Cateau, Matisse began legal studies, passed his law degree in Paris (1888), entered a clerkship with a solicitor in Saint-Quentin (1889); immobilized for a year by complications of appendicitis, he discovered the pleasure of painting. His mother, an amateur watercolorist, gave him a box of paints and, guided by the reading of a treatise by Frédéric Goupil, the young man had fun copying chromos. His first painting Still life with books (Matisse Museum, Nice), is dated June 1890. Matisse had found his vocation and, abandoning law, enrolled at the Julian Academy to prepare for the entrance exam to the École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts. He was exempted from the exam, thanks to the intervention of Gustave Moreau, in whose studio he worked from 1892 onwards.
These years of study show wise research: copies in the Louvre (Fragonard, Delacroix, Chardin especially), landscapes executed in the open air in the company of Marquet and studio paintings accepted at the Salon de la Société nationale des beaux-arts, where the State buys in 1896 the Liseuse for the castle of Rambouillet (now Museum of Modern Art, Troyes). But, from this date on, the revelation of Impressionism and the wonder of the southern light oriented Matisse's art towards new interests. He left the Beaux-Arts after the very academic Fernand Cormon had replaced Moreau and attended the Carrière Academy, where he met Derain, who introduced him to Vlaminck.