Henri Matisse

French (1869 - 1954)
Henri Matisse La Leçon de peinture or La Séance de peinture [The Painting Lesson or The Painting Session] 1919 © Succession H. Matisse. All rights Reserved. DACS, London 2019


Born 1869
Died 1954
Nationality French

Matisse began taking drawing classes as a way of relieving the boredom of his job as a solicitor's clerk. However, in 1891 he abandoned his legal career in favour of painting, studying at various schools in Paris. In 1905 he exhibited with a number of artists who were dubbed by a critic, 'Les fauves' (wild beasts). Matisse began painting in rich bright colours after spending time in the south of France. He settled there permanently in 1940. After undergoing two major operations in 1941 he was left bed-ridden but continued to make paper cut-outs. These allowed him to 'draw' into the colour.

Glossary terms

  • A loosely affiliated group of artists working in Paris in the early years of the twentieth century up to the Second World War.

  • A group of painters in France in the early twentieth century, including Henri Matisse and André Derain, who used bold, vivid colours in their work. The name is derived from a derogatory remark from a critic who saw them as akin to wild beasts.

  • A term used to describe art that employs ‘primitive’ elements or forms. Today the term ‘primitive’ is often deemed as degrading when applied to non-Western cultures, so is frequently placed in quotation marks.