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Henri Matisse was a French artist, born 1869, which was introduced to art in 1889 when he was recovering from appendicitis and his mother provided him with some art supplies to occupy his time at the hospital. It was at 19 that Matisse was introduced to what he later described as “a kind of paradise”.
At first, Matisse used to paint still life and landscapes in traditional Dutch style, and studied art in Paris in 1891 at the Academie Julian. When he moved in Paris, his work became heavily influenced by the art of Cezanne, Gaugin and other contemporaries and his style started to develop.
It was only in 1905, while working and travelling along the Mediterranean coast; Matisse developed a style of his own, and started to use bright and bold colours, which were used in an unreal way and without shadows.
With this experimentation, he gave life to the art current of “Les Fauve” or “Fauvism” of which he will be the main and most famous exponent. His work inspired many other contemporary artists such as Andre Derain, which will also become another important fauvist artist. Matisse and the group of artists known as “Fauves” (wild beasts) provoked concern an outrage in their first exhibition in 1905 at the Salon d’Automne.
Matisse and his colleagues received both harsh and favourable criticism, and many artists became famous under the name of “Les Fauves”, and many popular paintings such as “The Open Window” and “Les toits de collioure” by Matisse, “L'Olivier près de l'Estaque” by Georges Braque and “Le séchage des voiles” by Andre Derain.
During the decline of the movement, Matisse’s career was not affected at all. In fact, he developed a heightened sense of abstraction in his works and studied furthermore the role of high contrasts and colour intensities for the representation of human and natural figures.
Most of his finest works were produced between 19006 and 1917, when he travelled around Southern Europe and Northern Africa and absorbed many other influences, which made his work even more peculiar. Its full development as an artist can be seen in his paintings “L'Atelier Rouge” and “Still Life with Geraniums”.
During the Second World War years, he was limited to his chair and bed because of his abdominal cancer, and because it was impossible to paint or sculpt, he began to create collages that varied in sizes. Over the years, with the help of assistants, he created mural sized collages, expanded, and improved its technique until his death in 1954.
His “Fauvist” art has been one of the greatest example of rebellion against the widely accepted art of the galleries and the academies. A type of art that was only based on standardised ideals of beauty and aesthetics, and focused on the accurate and blunt depiction of reality. The fauvists followed the path of the impressionists and tried to make art subjective, colourful and vibrant. Matisse and the dozens of artists he inspired rebelled against the plain reality by adding to their art a personal and vivid touch.
The “Open Window” is one of Matisse’s most known works that have set the ground for the fauvist movement in France.