Henri Matisse was born in 1869 at Le Cateau-Cambrésis in the North of France. Matisse had originally planned on a legal career and in 1887 and 1888 he studied law in Paris. He was employed as a clerk in a solicitor’s office in 1889. During the year that followed he became interested in painting. Confined to his bed for nearly a year following an intestinal operation, Matisse took up drawing as a pastime. In 1891 he studied under Bouguereau at the Académie Julian and in 1892, he transferred to Gustave Moreau’s studio at the Ecole Beaux- Arts where he met Marquet. During the same time, he was also attending the Ecole Nationale des Arts Décoratifs.
Matisse made a successful debut at the Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux- Arts in 1896 and one year later, he displayed there again, this time showing his large canvas, “La Desserte”. After the death of Moreau in 1898, Matisse studied briefly with Cormon and then entered the Académie Carrière where he became acquainted with Derain and Puy and attended evening classes in sculpture.
From 1899 to 1904 Matisse participated in a group exhibition at Berthe Weil’s Gallery, painted townscapes in Paris, spent a summer working with Signac and Cross in Saint Tropez and painted views of Collioure. In 1906 he exhibited at the Salon d’Automne and the Salon des Indépendants with Derain, Marquet, Vlaminck, Roaualt and others and the group was nicknamed “Les Fauves”, (The Wild Ones). In 1907 he worked on a ceramic triptych for Osthaus’s mansion in Hagen, Westphalia. In the year that followed, he painted the monumental canvas, “The Red Room” and in 1909 and 1910 he completed two large, decorative panels, “The Dance”, and “The Music”.
Matisse visited Munich in 1910 to see an exhibition of Islamic art. From 1914 to 1918 he spent his time in Paris, Nice and Collioure. Matisse designed the stage sets and costumes for S. Diaghilev’s ballet, “The Nightingale” in 1920. During the 1930s he completed etching illustrations for Mallarmé’s, “Poésies” and produced cartoons for carpets, based on James Joyce’s, “Ulysses.
Matisse lived in the south of France during the Second World War and in 1941 he underwent a serious operation, which confined him to his bed for a long period. He began to concentrate on book designs and illustrations. After the end of the war, Matisse turned to monumental compositions, executing sketches for the stained glass panel representing St. Dominique in the church at Asay and the interior decoration for the Dominican chapel of Notre-Dame du Rosaire. The Musée Matisse opened at Le Cateau-Cambrésisi in 1952, two year before his death.