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Born in 1869 in northern France, Matisse is considered alongside Picasso as one of the early 20th century masters who helped define and create the revolutionary developments in visual arts of that age. Studying art in Paris, Matisse was inspired by established artists such as Manet, but upon visiting the Australian painter John Peter Russell, Matisse was introduced to the work of Van Gogh, then still an unknown artist who had been friends with Russell. This, alongside the work of Cezanne and Gauguin, immersed Matisse in a new world of colour and form. This inspiration became the basis for Matisse’s new work at the turn of the 20th century - which he exhibited with the group known as les Fauves (The wild beasts). The group’s work and Matisse’s use of unnatural colour attracted harsh criticism “A pot of paint has been flung in the face of the public” but some favourable attention. Matisse’s work continued to be highly controversial and he struggled to support his family. In 1913, his painting Nu Bleu was burned in effigy at the Armory Show in Chicago.
Matisse moved to the French Rivera and his work took on a new boldness after studying African and Islamic art, travelling to see the art in context. From 1930 onward Matisse’s work showed a move towards simplification and foreshadowing of his later cut out techniques. Under Nazi- occupied France, Matisse was still allowed to exhibit, despite Hitler initially claiming to despise Fauvism. At first Matisse considered fleeing to Brazil, but he later wrote to his son Pierre, an art dealer in New York “If everyone who has any value leaves France, what remains of France?”. Matisse’s family was heavily involved in the Resistance, his son Pierre helped Jewish and anti- Nazi French artists escape to New York and held an ‘Artists in Exile’ exhibit for them, Matisse’s estranged wife was jailed for being a typist for the Resistance for 6 months and his daughter, Marguerite, was tortured by the Gestapo for her involvement and escaped from a train bound for a German concentration camp, surviving in the woods for months before rescue.
In 1941 Matisse was diagnosed with abdominal cancer and underwent surgery that left him bed bound. With the help of his assistants, Matisse began to create work through paper collages. The paper was pre painted in gouache by his assistants and cut by Matisse to produce works that crossed the boundaries between painting and sculpture. These were initially small in scale, increasingly becoming mural sized. Matisse died in 1954 and it was these later cutouts that became the works he is most well known for in the public mind. As his very last project Matisse worked with the famous Mourlot Freres, with whom Matisse had worked for decades, to reinterpret the cut-outs as original lithographs. A suite of 39 images was printed from the stone blocks at the Paris atelier. Matisse personally directed, oversaw and supervised the first ‘pulls’ of the lithographs shortly before his death in 1954. We at The Art Hound Gallery are delighted to offer for sale original lithographs by Matisse and Mourlot.