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Henri Matisse: A Gentleman’s Passion

Henri Matisse - Le bonheur de vivre (The Joy of Life) 1905-06, Oil on canvas, 175 x 241 cm (69 1/8 x 94 7/8 in); Barnes Foundation, Merion, PA (click photo for larger image)Henri Matisse (1869-1954) was the most important French painter of the 20th century, rivaling Pablo Picasso in his influence. His background was diverse. He studied under Academic painter Bouguereau and Symbolist Gustave Moreau. He experimented with the Pointillism of Neo-Impressionist Georges Seurat, but found it rigidly confining. Later, building on the work of Post-Impressioniss Cézanne and Gauguin, Matisse (with André Derain)  developed Fauvism, a much freer and more expressive style of painting which was the forerunner of Expressionism. Although his is most famous for the establishment of Fauvism, he enjoyed a long career and his work was quite varied. “Matisse, like Raphael, was a born leader and taught and encouraged other painters, while Picasso, like Michelangelo, inhibited them with his power.” The name “Fauves” is translated as “wild beasts”. But there was nothing wild about Matisse. He was a gentleman and an intellectual—but nevertheless very passionate.

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