Henri Matisse

French (Le Cateau-Cambrésis, France, 1869 - 1954, Nice, France)

Along with Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse was one of the pillars of the Parisian avant-garde, whose formal innovations in painting would dominate much of modern art. Matisse initially worked in law, but discovered a passion for art when he began painting as an amateur. He went on to study traditional academic painting. In the early years of the twentieth century, however, he rejected the idea that painting had to imitate the appearance of nature. His characteristic innovations were the use of vibrant, arbitrary colors; bold, autonomous brushstrokes; and a flattening of spatial depth. This anti-naturalistic style inspired the critical name "fauves," or "wild beasts," for the group of painters around Matisse.

Ironically, Matisse often applied his thoroughly modern style to traditional subjects such as still lifes, landscapes, and portraits. Such works express a sense of timeless joy and stillness that runs counter to the frenetic, technologically inspired compositions of many of his contemporaries. Although primarily dedicated to painting, Matisse was also active as a sculptor and printmaker. In the 1940s, in failing health, he embarked on a well-known group of cut-paper collages.

From June 3, 2013, through early 2016, SFMOMA's building on Third Street in San Francisco will be temporarily closed for expansion construction. Selected artworks in our collection are included in a range of off-site exhibitions during this period. We regret that the remainder of the collection will not be available for study during this time.

In the meantime, we invite you to explore a wide selection of our collection online. Please note that the information presented online is subject to revision. Please contact us at collections@sfmoma.org to verify artwork details.

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