Henri Matisse is born in the town of Le Cateau-Cambrésis in Northern France as the son of a grain merchant.
Matisse arrives in Paris, which was a hub of international modern art. The city’s exhibition scene offered a wide selection of competing styles and movements. Matisse had not yet settled on the route he wished to pursue in his art, and so was highly impressionable and receptive to all that he saw.
Matisse copies the old masters and artists from his own era alike. He did so partly to try out a range of different styles, partly as part of his academic training at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
Matisse holds his first solo show at the art dealer Vollard’s gallery in Paris. He was criticised for being too obvious in his artistic dependence on others.
Matisse exhibits at the Salon d'Automne in Paris, where he is celebrated as the new leader of the young generation of artists even though he was also ridiculed by critics and audiences alike. It was on this occasion that the art critic Louis Vauxcelles called Matisse and his fellow artists “wild beasts” (Les Fauves), thereby coining the term for the Fauvist movement.
Matisse creates his first true pairs of paintings. The earliest examples include two portraits of the same young fisherman from the French town of Collioure entitled Young Sailor I and Young Sailor II. The paintings share the same subject matter, but are nevertheless widely different. The first painting is painted in the expressive Fauvist style, and in the other painting he applied the colours in uniform fields and deformed the figure.
Matisse conducts painting sessions with the sensuous Italian model Laurette over the course of six to seven months. These sessions would have a crucial impact on his work with larger series in the years that followed.
Late 1910s – 1920s
In the late 1910s and up through the 1920s Matisse mainly paints still lifes, exotic odalisques in picturesque interiors, and the hotel rooms he occupied in Nice.
Matisse repeatedly paints the same rooms, constantly rearranging furniture and objects, varying colours and patterns, and moving models around in order to investigate a range of devices and effects.
Matisse hires a photographer to document his working process while he paints the monumental mural The Dance, a work commissioned by the US art dealer Albert Barnes in Philadelphia.
Matisse lives a quiet life in Vence. His studio constitutes his entire universe, and he paints several views of his studio in the Villa Le Rêve in Vence.
Matisse contributes no less than 37 paintings at the 1945 Salon d' Automne; towards the end of the year he presents another exhibition at Galerie Maeght in Paris. The gallery not only exhibited his paintings, but also large, framed photographs of earlier stages of the paintings. Matisse referred to the exhibition as the didactic exhibition.
Matisse dies at the age of 84 in Nice.