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Maison Matisse

"Matisse's optimism is the gift he has given to our sick world,
the example to those who indulge in torment."

Louis Aragon

Henri Matisse drawing

Maison Matisse

Maison Matisse

Henri Matisse discovered painting when he was 20 and persuaded his parents to give up law to train in Paris. He joined Gustave Moreau's studio as an auditing student in 1892 at the School of Fine Arts and the master soon spotted his student's talent saying  : "You are going to simplify painting."

Photograph of the artist Henri Matisse

At the turn of the century, Matisse delved into Neo-Impressionism and became close to Signac who he visited in Saint-Tropez; this encounter resulted in Luxe, calme et volupté (1904). Matisse spent summer 1905 in Collioure with Derain and made the first fauve pieces exhibited that year at the Salon. This liberation of pure color "isn't everything but it's the foundation of everything  : it's energy" (Claudine Grammont, Tout Matisse, Éditions Robert Laffont, 2018, page 557). Henri Matisse became the figurehead of Parisian avant-garde and presented Le Bonheur de vivre at the Salon des Indépendants the following year.

Hailing from a family of northern textile workers, Henri Matisse demonstrated a deep bond with textiles from all origins throughout his life. He would unearth them from second-hand dealers, forming the beginnings of a diverse collection of pieces ranging from Islamic pottery and tribal sculptures to different pieces of furniture that formed "his palette of objects". "Objects are actors", he said : good actors can perform in ten different plays, an object can perform a different role in ten different paintings. The object is not taken alone, it evokes an ensemble of elements" (Dominique Fourcade, Ecrits et propos sur l'art, Éditions Hermann, 1972, page 247c). This open-mindedness, this melting pot were enriched by the artist's travels, fueling his artistic mind and the iconography of his work.

With the support of art collectors, dealers and critics, he could now create large-format pieces for the decorative purposes he aspired to. A non-hierarchical concept of surface, an attraction towards imposing esthetics and a vision of accessible art became key elements to his work.

Henri Matisse discovered Nice in late 1917. The artist was won over by the climate and light and gradually moved to the Mediterranean where he stayed until the end of his life. Based in a small space that he filled with textiles and objects, he created a system to channel his creativity where he could paint, draw, engrave and sculpt odalisques, relentlessly tackling the portrayal of body shapes on an ornamental background.

At the age of 60 in 1930, he began a series of several trips taking him to Tahiti and America. Exploring large US cities, being in touch with the wilderness associated with the idea of a lost paradise and the attraction to Oceanic art recharged his batteries and inspired a new kind of mammoth art such as Dance for the Barnes Foundation.

Henri Matisse fell seriously ill in 1941 and underwent an emergency operation in Lyon. After a lengthy recovery, the artist felt like he'd been given a "second chance" to complete his work. He returned to the Côte d'Azur and moved to Villa Le Rêve in Vence whose lush garden reminded him of Tahiti. The demanding and tireless creator worked daily, day and night. Next came countless illustrated books, the first pieces made entirely from paper cut-outs and the last large paintings.

The paper cut-outs were originally designed as a work tool to explore the balance between shape and color but gradually became the artist's favorite means of expression, making the last chapter of his life a new time of intense creativity and innovation.

"Drawing with scissors. Cutting straight into color reminds me of sculptors carving."

(Dominique Fourcade, Ecrits et propos sur l'art, Éditions Hermann, 1972, page 237).


This new medium meant the 80-year-old artist could create what he saw as his masterpiece : The Rosary Chapel in Vence as well as vast immersive pieces that covered the walls in his Régina studio apartment in the Nice hills. Matisse passed away in Nice on November 3, 1954, at the Régina.

The painter Henri Matisse

Archives Henri Matisse.
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