Henri Matisse (1869 – 1954) was a French artist recognised for his use of colour as well as his fluid and unique draughtsmanship. He was a draughtsman, a printer, and a sculptor, but he is best known as a painter. Matisse, along with Pablo Picasso, is widely considered as one of the artists who most contributed to defining the revolutionary advancements in the visual arts during the first decades of the twentieth century, responsible for key developments in painting and sculpture.

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Henri Matisse Self-Portrait in a Striped T-shirt (1906)_©Statens Museum for Kunst

1. La Danse The Dance | Henri Matisse

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The Dance_©Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg

This painting, along with music, was done as part of a two-piece commission for Russian art collector Sergei Shchukin. It depicts five dancing individuals in a bright red against a simple green countryside and a deep blue sky. The picture oozes ‘primitive’ vitality and was created in a naive and juvenile manner on purpose. La Danse is regarded as a watershed moment in the evolution of modern painting, and it is Henri Matisse’s most renowned work.

2. Le bonheur de vivre– The Joy of Life

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The Joy of Life_©Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia

The Joy of Life was recognised as the most radical painting of its day, and it was Matisse’s breakout masterpiece. It displays multiple naked ladies and men in a vibrantly coloured countryside. In the backdrop, a group of dancing folks may be observed. Matisse defied Western painting standards in this work by employing methods such as shifting perspectives, resulting in an out-of-scale picture. When the piece was originally presented, there was widespread public indignation. Le bonheur de Vivre, on the other hand, is now regarded as the finest work of Fauvism and one of the foundations of early modernism.

3. L’atelier Rouge– The Red Studi | Henri Matisse

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Atelier Rouge_©The Museum of Modern Art, New York City

This artwork depicts Henri Matisse’s workshop, which is filled with paintings, sculptures, and ceramics. Its walls and floor have been reduced to a single continuous strip of uniform crimson by the artist. “I find that all these things… only become what they are to me when I see them together with the colour red,” Matisse said of the colour’s significance. The Red Studio is regarded as a seminal work in art history, and it was placed fifth in a 2004 survey of 500 art experts as the most significant contemporary artwork of all time.

4. Nu Bleu, Souvenir De Biskra– Blue Nude, Souvenir of Biskra

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Blue Nude_©Baltimore Museum of Art

Matisse was working on a sculpture when it fractured accidentally, and the fragmented parts prompted him to create Blue Nude, his most controversial work. It stunned the French audience when it was originally shown in 1907 at the Société des Artistes Indépendants. When its effigy was destroyed at the Armory Show in Chicago in 1913, the artwork became an international sensation. Nu bleu is currently regarded as a seminal work in Matisse’s career. It influenced Pablo Picasso to produce one of his most famous works, Les Demoiselles d’Avignon (The Young Ladies of Avignon).

5. Les Demoiselles À La Rivière– Bathers by A River | Henri Matisse

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Bathers by the River©Art Institute of Chicago

Henri Matisse believed this painting to be one of his most significant works. He worked on it in stages over the course of eight years, and it underwent several alterations that reflected his newfound interest in Cubism, an art style he had previously dismissed. Bathers by a River stands apart from Matisse’s other paintings due to its limited palette and strongly abstracted figures. It has been extensively researched and scrutinised. The fact that it was painted during World War I adds to the painting’s appeal.

6. Femme Au Chapeau– Woman with a Hat

Woman with a Hat_©San Fancisco Museum of Modern Art
Woman with a Hat_©San Fancisco Museum of Modern Art

Henri Matisse and a group of painters displayed their work at the Salon d’Automne in Paris in 1905. The group was mocked as ‘fauves’ (wild animals) by critic Louis Vauxcelles, giving rise to the important art movement Fauvism. This portrait of Matisse’s wife, Amélie Noellie Parayre, was the source of contention. The public and reviewers were both taken aback by its loose brushwork, unfinished look, and brilliant, non-naturalistic hues. Woman with a Hat went on to become one of Henri Matisse’s most famous works.

7. Luxe, Calme Et Volupté– Luxury, Calm and Pleasure

Luxe_©Musée d'Orsay
Luxe_©Musée d’Orsay

The separation of colours into separate dots or patches that interacted optically characterised divisionism in Neo-Impressionist painting. Paul Signac and Georges Seurat were the forefathers of it. The Divisionist method is used in this painting, which is likely based on a view from Signac’s residence in Saint-Tropez. Matisse’s most renowned painting in the Neo-Impressionist style is Luxe, Calme, et Volupté. He abandoned the style the next year and became one of the forefathers of Fauvism.

8. Poissons Rouges et Palette Goldfish and Palette

Goldfish and Palette_©The museum of Modern Art
Goldfish and Palette_©The museum of Modern Art

The Goldfish and Palette was made in 1915.  The artwork is a beautiful example of modern cubism through natural elements. The space through the open window has been arbitrarily altered, with an inexplicable dislocation of what could be wall panels or window shutters, which have been shifted to the centre, forming a dark vertical register.

9. La Fenêtre Ouverte– The Open Window

The Open Window_©National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C
The Open Window_©National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C

Henri Matisse was the most notable leader of the brief but powerful painting movement known as Fauvism, which was distinguished by its use of bright expressionistic and non-naturalistic colour. The scene from Matisse’s flat window in Collioure, on France’s southern coast, is shown in this picture. He uses a totally different brush to depict the interior of the room, the window itself, the balcony, and the harbour view. The Open Window is one of Matisse’s most renowned Fauvist paintings, and it is regarded as an early modernist classic.

10. Femme au Manteau Violet– Woman in a Purple Coat | Henri Matisse

Woman in a Purple Coat_©Museum of Fine Arts Houston- emuseum.mfah.org/objects/1552/woman-in-a-purple-coat?ctx=aa353f3fe9c3e718480bad4fd7a0e73b6211c3ad&idx=0
Woman in a Purple Coat_©Museum of Fine Arts Houston- emuseum.mfah.org/objects/1552/woman-in-a-purple-coat?ctx=aa353f3fe9c3e718480bad4fd7a0e73b6211c3ad&idx=0

Lydia Delectorskaya, Matisse’s inspiration and partner in later life, is seen in this portrait. Amélie Noellie Parayre, Henri Matisse’s wife, accused the two of having an affair, which caused her to divorce him. Lydia is dressed in an exotic Moroccan outfit in the artwork, which is surrounded by an abstract design and exotic colour complex. Woman in a Purple Coat is one of the most well-known pieces from Matisse’s final batch of oil paintings, after which he abandoned painting in favour of making paper cut-outs.


Henri Matisse. (2011). Henri Matisse. [online] Available at: https://www.henrimatisse.org/

Wikipedia Contributors (2019). Henri Matisse. [online] Wikipedia. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henri_Matisse


A recently graduated architect, Mohit has a quest to understand the Art and Architecture of our cities. He believes in designing things by understanding the larger context and blending them into the larger environment.

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