Henri Matisse was not only one of the major artists of the twentieth century but one of the greatest pioneers of modern art, who explored all the potentials of figuration and abstraction in his paintings. He has remained incredibly influential to this day. Born on December 31, 1869, in Le Cateau-Cambrésis, northern France, Matisse initially began to study law before turning entirely to art in 1891.
In the early years of the century Matisse became the leading protagonist of Fauvism, a style that emphasized bright colors and expressive forms. Subsequently his art was characterized by a turn to experimental reduction, an archaic figuration that concentrated on pure color and form. After the 1920s and a phase of ornamental figuration again based on the formal principles of plain and color, in the 1940s, despite a serious illness, Matisse arrived at his monumental late style: the large-scale, colorful compositions of cut-outs which for him represented the achievement of his lifelong striving for the perfect artistic “décoration.”
Matisse died on November 3, 1954, in Cimiez, in the hills above Nice.