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Henri Matisse’s biography

Henri Matisse was born at Le Cateau-Cambrésis in the North of France on December 31, 1869. Matisse studied under Bouguereau at the Académie Julian, and in 1892 transferred to Gustave Moreau’s studio at the Ecole Beaux-Arts, where he met Marquet, attending the Ecole Nationale des Arts Décoratifs.

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During the last twenty years of his life, Henri Matisse developed a significant new technique: the paper cutout. These late works were made as independent compositions and also as studies for works in other media. Matisse's methods and the evolution of his work in cut-and-pasted paper and include excerpts from a lecture on "The Significance of Matisse's Subject Matter."  Insight into the artist's philosophy is provided through the French and English texts of Matisse's Jazz portfolio.

“Lavishly produced in oversize format, there is the complete illustrated catalogue of a landmark new exhibition devoted to the artist--the largest ever assembled--to be held at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, from September through January. Includes biographical notes, a chronology”. (Henri Matisse: A Retrospective by John Elderfield)


Matisse created art differently than most artists of his time. He used paper and scissors to compose a remarkable masterpiece. Since 1940, Matisse has used this art form. He used various sizes of shapes made from paper with a gouche' washes of color. Cutting the designs out, Matisse pastes them onto the art surface creating a beautiful and aesthetically pleasing work of art.

Matisse created these paper cut outs for about 25 years. He constructed more than 200 pieces of this style of artwork. A great artist, Matisse was unusual in his form and style, but the works are beautiful to look at and admire.

"I tried to create a paper cut out project myself. While trying to make my masterpiece, I discovered that Matisse's art form is actually very complicated to do. To make it look right, one has to utilize contrasting colors and shapes, which is difficult." Henri Matisse (A little history... by Lane Andrews)

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He created his papercuts, carving in colored paper, scissoring out shapes, and collaging them into sometimes vast pictures. These works, daringly brilliant, are the nearest he ever came to abstraction.

Beasts of the Sea (1950; 295.5 x 154 cm (9 ft 8 in x 5 ft 1/2 in)) gives a wonderful underwater feeling of fish, sea cucumbers, sea horses, and water-weeds, the liquid liberty of the submarine world where most of us can never go. Its geometric rightness and chromatic radiance sum up the two great gifts of this artist and it is easy to see why he is the greatest colorist of the 20th century. He understood how elements worked together, how colors and shapes could come to life most startlingly when set in context.
 A total of 57 works in cut paper by Henri Matisse included 5 acquired in 1973 for the opening of the Gallery's East Building. The exhibition was organized by Jack Cowart of the Saint Louis Art Museum and John Hallmark Neff of the Detroit Institute of Arts.
This was the first major exhibition of Matisse's late decoupages and incorporated designs for stained glass windows, ceramic tile murals, book illustrations, church vestments, and other textiles. (Henri Matisse, Paper Cutouts, by Jack Cowart, Jack D. Flam, Dominique Fourcade, John Hallmark Neff. Saint Louis: Saint Louis Art Museum; Detroit: Detroit Institute of Arts, 1977.)
In the early 1940s Matisse started on the series of 20 cutouts, which were to be published together under the title Jazz (in 1947 in an edition of 250). The source of the title is unclear, but Matisse perhaps saw a likeness between what he called the 'lively and violent tones' of his images, and jazz music.

An early alternative was Circus, and in fact a number of the cutouts fit this theme: 'The Clown,' 'The Sword Swallower,' 'The Knife Thrower.' Others are more abstract; and there are three 'Lagoons,' inspired by Matisse's visit to Tahiti in 1930.

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The most famous of the compositions in all of art, is 'Icarus,' an iconic representation of the ill-fated son of Daedalus who flew too close to the sun. In a hopelessly blue sky filled with enormous yellow stars the doomed boy plummets to the earth; without his wings, reduced to a heavy black shape, but his noble heart still glowing with life to the very end. The stars dance helplessly around him; his legs, useless in this element of the air, are heavy and clumsy; his arms, bereft now of feathers, still bent in a desperate attempt to slow his fall. And at the center of the composition the tiny heart pulses tragically.


Polynesia, The Sea. (1946.) Gouache on paper cut-out is at the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France.

Everything of Matisse's works together superbly. Matisse's work is uninhibited by the restraints of visual perception. This is evident in the different mediums he used for his artwork polynesie. He occupied himself with decoupage, creating works of brilliantly colored paper cutouts arranged casually, but with an unfailing eye for design, on a canvas surface, an example polynesie.

He worked in painting, etching, sculpture, clothing, drawing, stained glass, and even paper cut outs. He also experimented in a variety of styles (impressionism, cubism, pseudo-realism, minimalism), but all of his work was rooted in the belief that the essence, or the feeling, of the subject should be expressed. The expression that is felt in this piece of art is that of calamity and sereness of the sea.
Henri Matisse produced this masterpiece of what he called 'cut-outs' -- compositions made from shapes cut out of brightly painted drawing paper and pasted down. Matisse had always been a great colorist; the compositions of chunks of brilliant, pure colour, with their simple but eloquent lines, is an amazing distillation of his ideas and techniques.

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Matisse's art has an astonishing force and lives by innate right in a paradise world into which Matisse draws all his viewers. He gravitates to the beautiful and produces some of the most powerful beauty ever painted. The intellectual splendor of this dazzlingly beautiful art appealed to the Russian mentality, and many great Matisses are now in Russia.

While rationally stylish, Matisse always highlighted the significance of character and perception in the creation of a piece of art. He argued that an artist did not have absolute control over color and form; instead, colors, shapes, and lines would come to pronounce to the perceptive artist how they might be engaged in relation to one another, and this is shown in this view of the painting.

He often emphasized his joy in abandoning himself to the play of the forces of color and design, and he explained the rhythmic, but distorted, forms in terms of the working out of a total pictorial harmony. This shows that this picture polynesie is based on these principles thus Matisse is regarded as one of the great formative figures in 20th-century art.

 Matisse was viewed as a Fauvist, and his celebration of bright colors reached its peak in1917 when he began to spend time on the French Riviera at Nice and Venice. Here he concentrated on reflecting the sensual color of his surroundings and completed some of his most exciting paintings. In 1941 Matisse was diagnosed as having duodenal cancer and was permanently confined to a wheelchair. It was in this condition that he completed the magnificent Chapel of the Rosary in Vince.

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Matisse's true artistic liberation, in terms of the use of color to render forms and organize spatial planes, came about first through the influence of Gauguin, Cezanne and van Gogh, whose work he studied closely. Then, Matisse encountered the pointillist painting of Edmond Cross and Signac.

By 1905 he had produced some of the boldest color images ever created. His images of dancer n general, convey expressive form first and the particular details of anatomy only secondarily. Matisse extended this principle into other fields; his bronze sculptures, like his drawing reveal the same expressive contours seen in his paintings.

“A celebration of passion, color, emotions, and, in essence, life is taking place at the High Museum of Art on Peachtree St. No, I am not talking about a party, but of the "Henri Matisse: Masterworks from the Museum of Modern Art, New York" exhibit. Walk through this presentation and you will witness the embodiment of passion, emotions, and beauty through these incredible works of art.”
Lacking the strength required to labor at a painting or sculpture, he worked on this enchanting cutout art, which is the purest translation of his philosophy into art. The cutouts allowed him to work entirely in color, or as he puts it, "drawing with scissors; one movement linking line with color, contour with surface. "Each and every cut out in this image polynesie is a true marking of his work.

Henri Matisse was a minimalist in his work. He strived to find the simplest means of conveying his feelings to the viewer. After being in the presence of this great masterwork, there is no doubt that he achieved his goal. Matisse "drew" shapes with his scissors, arranged them, and glued them in place. Shapes do not necessarily look exactly like what they represent but have qualities, which make us think about what they represent. He used the shape he cut out as well as the scraps in many cases. Most of his works vary from the bright splotches of his impressionistic paintings to the geometric structure of his cubist experiments, to his final masterpieces of colored paper cutouts, he has used lesser of the colors in this masterpiece.

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 Every work, including this image, in the museums being, basically, a rhyme to joy/life, filling the passing admirer with the passion of truly being alive. It is a reminder to all that beauty does exist in this sometimes-dowdy world. To have the chance to see these masterpieces first hand is a once in a lifetime opportunity of experiencing the touch of Matisse.

 “ Henri Matisse turned to paper cutting in 1941 while recovering from an operation. This is the first major study of his paper-cuts”, written by Jack Cowart of the St. Louis Museum, John Hallmark Neff of the Detroit Institute of Arts, Jack D. Flam of Brooklyn College and Dominique Fourcade, a French art historian.

“ Matisse and his works combines little-known facts--as documented from his notes, letters to friends, press submissions, and interviews--with his vibrant paintings, his crimson-walled studio, and his achievements with color.” (Matisse: The Wonder of Color (Discoveries) by Xavier Girard)

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Henri Matisse, Paper Cut-Outs, by Jack Cowart, Jack D. Flam, Dominique Fourcade, John Hallmark Neff. Saint Louis: Saint Louis Art Museum; Detroit: Detroit Institute of Arts, 1977.)

Henri Matisse (First Impressions - Introductions to Art) by Albert Kostenevich, Lory Frankel   

Henri Matisse: A Retrospective by John Elderfield 

Matisse (Great Modern Masters) by Henri Matisse, Jose Maria Faerna (Editor)

Matisse: The Wonder of Color (Discoveries) by Xavier Girard, et al


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