Henri Matisse was born December 31st, 1869 to two storeowners, Emile and Heloise Matisse. His father wanted him to be a lawyer, so later on in life he could takeover the family business. They sent him to Henri Martin Grammar School where he studied to be a lawyer. There was a hint of artist in Henri because while working as a lawyer’s assistant he took up a drawing course (Essers 7). It was for curtain design but it seemed to be destiny for a lawyer’s assistant to take up such a distant hobby as drawing. At the age of 21, his intestinal operation led to appendicitis. Henri was on bed rest for most of 1890 and to help him occupy his time, his mother bought him a set of paints. That was the turning point in Henri’s life. He decided to give up his career in law for a career in art. Matisse himself said, “It was as if I had been called. Henceforth I did not lead my life. It led me” (Getlein 80). Soon after, Henri began to take classes at the Academie Julian to prepare himself for the entrance examination at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts (Essers 7). Henri failed his first attempt, leading to his departure from the Academie. He then enrolled at the Ecole des Arts decoratifs and that is where his friendship with Albert Marquet began. They started working alongside of Gustave Moreau, a distinguished teacher at Ecole des Beaux-Arts, even though they had not been accepted (Essers 12). In 1895, Henri finally passed the Beaux-Arts entrance examination and his pathway to his new career choice had officially begun. Henri studied under Moreau at the Beaux-Arts. Moreau obviously impressed with his student, told him, “You were born to simplify painting” (Getlein 80). It was at the Beaux-Arts where he met another Moreau student named Derain. Matisse and Derain would grow to become friends and future trendsetters. During a visit to Brittany, Matisse discovered Impressionism (Essers 8). The works of Cezanne and Van Gogh influenced him. When he returned, he exhibited his first painting, Dinner Table, in 1897. This was his first painting of impressionistic style. Matisse’s art began to concentrate on landscapes, still life, and domestic interiors. Still life is a theme Henri would follow for the rest of his career. Henri tried to return to the Beaux-Arts after the release of Dinner T…
…g, but not what he meant. Was it supposed to be taken as seen or is their hidden meaning behind the scenes? The iconography of the picture could represent art in the view of the fauvists. Fauvists wanted to be free from tradition and natural colors. They wanted to be free to explore their world of colors as they saw fit. Fauvists and expressionists did not like to be held to strict rules when it came to painting. It could be that Le Bonheur de Vivre was a state in which they where trying to reach, but in reality could get never get there. On the other hand, could it be a place where they could only reach in their dreams? Critics have struggled with the interpretation of Matisse’s painting since the first display. That may have been Matisse’s meaning after all. Bibliography
Essers, Volkmar. Henri Matisse, 1869-1954: Master of Colour. Taschen: Koln, 1987.
Flam, Jack. Matisse: The Dance. National Gallery of Art: Washington D.C., 1993.
Flam, Jack. Matisse: The Man and His Art, 1869-1918. Cornell University Press: Ithaca, 1986.
Getlein, Mark. Gilbert’s Living With Art: Sixth Ed. McGraw Hill: New York, 2002.