(b Le Cateau-Cambrésis [now Le Cateau], nr Cambrai, Picardy, Dec 31, 1869; d Nice, Nov 3, 1954).
French painter, draughtsman, sculptor, printmaker, designer and writer. He came to art comparatively late in life and made his reputation as the principal protagonist of Fauvism, the first avant-garde movement at the turn of the century. He went on to develop a monumental decorative art, which was innovative both in its treatment of the human figure and in the constructive and expressive role accorded to colour. His long career culminated in a highly original series of works made of paper cut-outs, which confirmed his reputation, with Picasso, as one of the major artists of the 20th century.
Matisse was born in his grandparents’ home and grew up in the neighbouring village of Bohain-en-Vermandois, where his father’s general store had developed into a grain business. He worked first as a solicitor’s clerk in the local town of Saint-Quentin before taking a degree in law in Paris from October 1887 to August 1889, without apparently showing the slightest interest in art; on returning home he resumed work as a solicitor’s clerk. Bored by the routine of office life, he attended drawing classes at the Ecole Quentin Latour before going to work....