Henri Matisse is regarded as one of the most important artists of the 20th century. His innovations in colour and form helped shape the avant garde movement.


Matisse was born in 1869 in Le Cateau-Cambrésis in northern France in where his father was a well to do grain merchant. He did not discover his love of painting for many years and first studied law in Paris and later worked as a court administrator in Le Cateau-Cambrésis.


In 1889 Matisse suffered from appendicitis and during his convalescence his mother gave him art supplies. Matisse fell in love with painting and resolved to become an artist despite his father’s disappointment. In 1891 he again went to Paris, this time to study at the Académie Julian where he studied under William-Adolphe Bouguereau and Gustave Moreau, focusing his art on still lifes, landscapes, and Chardin paintings in the Louvre. But ultimately it was John Peter Russell who Matisse credits with teaching him about colour.


Matisse’s work continued to mature and in 1910 he did what many consider to be his most important work Le Danse for the Russian patron Sergei Shchukin. In 1917 Matisse left Montparnasse for the French Riviera. His work began to become more simplified in form and while he retained his work ethic the pictures from this later time in his life appear to be more relaxed.