Marshalltown Arts & Civic Center

Henri Matisse

Long recognized as one of the greatest masters of the 20th century, Henri Matisse was a supreme colorist and creator of art that continues to delight multitudes of people. Often compared to Picasso, Matisse was one of the founders of modern art, and, again like Picasso, went on developing and refining his vision throughout a long and creatively fruitful life.

Matisse began painting in earnest at age 22 when the art world was dominated by official academies and juried exhibitions. As such, his earliest training focused exclusively on basic technique and classical academic principles.

As a professional artist, Matisse was first associated with ‘les Fauves,’ a group who saw themselves as “creators of objects,” rather than “recorders of objects as they appeared.” As a whole, the group is credited with liberating color, and it was Matisse who most enthusiastically embraced this aspect of their manifesto. Although he mastered a range of styles and mediums throughout his career, the lessons learned with les Fauves stayed with him always. Best known for works on canvas, Matisse also achieved great success in printmaking, lithography, etching, woodcutting, book illustration, and costume and stage design.

Contrary to the perception that modern artists were free-thinkers and rather bohemian, Matisse was, by nature, a cautious and patient man. Making numerous studies of his artwork before being satisfied with a final product, many of his pieces convey what has been called “calculated abandon.” Late in life, when almost incapable of painting, he created decorative art by cutting colored paper into shapes and pasting them onto a surface. These collages of his final years are among the most joyous works of his entire career.

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