On this date in 1869, artist Henri Matisse was born in Le Cateau, Picardy, France. Although he had studied for the law, Matisse discovered his passion for painting while convalescing from a serious illness at age 21. Matisse studied the work of Cezanne, Monet and Seurat, and worked with Paul Signac and Andre Derain. In 1905 he was dubbed King of the Fauvists ("Wild Beasts"), despite his gentlemanly habits. Fauvism was characterized by intense color and a faux-primitive style that shocked the art world. In 1906, Matisse unveiled his most famous work, "The Joy of Life." Gertrude Stein was an early collector. From 1917 on, Matisse lived in Nice. He was awarded the French Legion of Honor in 1925. In 1941, he was diagnosed with duodenal cancer and was confined the rest of his life to a wheelchair, but never gave up his art. Biographer Henry Spurling, in The Unknown Matisse (1998), called Matisse "a staunch atheist." D. 1954.
“Ever since there have been men, man has given himself over to too little joy. That alone, my brothers, is our original sin. I should believe only in a God who understood how to dance.”
—Henri Matisse, cited in Who's Who in Hell by Warren Allen Smith. (This quote is akin to Friedrich Neitzsche's, "I would only believe in a God who knew how to dance," Thus Spoke Zarathrustra, 1883)
Compiled by Annie Laurie Gaylor
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