Born on December 31, 1869, in Le Cateau in northern France, he worked in all media, from painting to sculpture to printmaking. His revolutionary use of brilliant color and exaggerated form to express emotion made him one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.
As a young man Matisse worked as a legal clerk and then studied for a law degree in Paris in 1887-89. He began taking a drawing class in the mornings before he went to work. When he was 21, Matisse began painting and his vocation as an artist was confirmed.
Matisse began to show his work in large group exhibitions in Paris in the mid-1890s, including the traditional Salon de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, and his work received some favorable attention.
In a review of one of his show, a contemporary art critic mentioned the bold, distorted images painted by certain artists he nicknamed “fauves,” or “wild beasts. Painting in the style that came to be known as Fauvism, Matisse continued to emphasize the emotional power of sinuous lines, strong brushwork and acid-bright colors in works such as The Joy of Life, a large composition of female nudes in a landscape.
After finding his own style, Matisse enjoyed a greater degree of success. He was able to travel to Italy, Germany, Spain and North Africa for inspiration.
His works of the 1910s and 1920s, Matisse continued to delight and surprise his viewers with his signature elements of saturated colors, flattened pictorial space, limited detail and strong outlines.
In 1920, he first scholarly book about Matisse was published, marking his importance in the history of modern art as it was still taking place. He died on November 3, 1954, at the age of 84, in Nice.