Henri Matisse (Dictionary of World Biography: Twentieth Century)
Article abstract: Matisse became the leader of the French expressionists called Les Fauves, or wild beasts. When the artists of that unofficial movement dispersed, he steadfastly and daringly simplified painting to the point of abstract decoration.
Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse was born in extreme northern France at Le Cateau-Cambrésis, the town of his grandparents, but spent his youth in nearby Bohain-en-Vermandois, where his father Émile had financial interests in a drugstore and a grain elevator. Little is known of the boy’s early youth, but not long after the age of ten Matisse was sent to Saint-Quentin, some distance to the south, to study Latin and Greek. Up to age eighteen, Matisse moved dutifully from one school to the next without exhibiting an inclination toward any particular profession. In 1887, however, he went to Paris to study law and did so with his father’s blessing. In three years he completed legal coursework, passed the required examinations, and returned to Saint-Quentin, where he began a monotonous existence as a clerk in a lawyer’s office.
That type of life might have continued for many years had Matisse not attended morning classes in 1889 at the École Quentin Latour, where he drew from sculpture casts, and had he not had appendicitis, necessitating a long convalescence that was alleviated by his mother’s gift of a box of paints, brushes, and an instruction...
(The entire section is 2181 words.)
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