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Henri Matisse



Master Painter
Henri Matisse, French (1869-1954), <i>Boy with a Butterfly Net</i>, 1907, oil on canvas ©Succession H. Matisse, Paris / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
zoom Henri Matisse, French (1869-1954), Boy with a Butterfly Net, 1907, oil on canvas ©Succession H. Matisse, Paris / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Matisse was twenty years old and recovering from appendicitis when his mother gave him his first set of paints. She thought it might help fill his time. He started by painting humble still lifes and was soon studying the great masters.

Matisse was always independent. He began his artistic training in a traditional way but then left school because the professors taught only traditional, “academic” art. Yet he was open to learning from the past. In works like Three Bathers you can see the influence of medieval and early Renaissance artists in the darkly outlined, flattened figures.

Matisse belonged to of a group of artists called the Fauves (French for “wild beasts”). The Fauves used bright, random colors and vigorous brushstrokes to express emotions and experiences. Boy with a Butterfly Net—a nearly life-size portrait of a boy named Allan Stein—is one of Matisse’s Fauvist works. The landscape behind the boy is made up of broad bands of color too vivid to look natural: a deep blue sky, grassy hills of emerald green, and a sloping, brick-red path.


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1. The three bathers in this painting are defined by dark outlines that separate them from the beach.
Three Bathers, 1907, oil on canvas ©Succession H. Matisse, Paris / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
2. Matisse was influenced by the flattened figures in medieval and early Renaissance paintings.

 

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November 2006