Costume Design – Matisse

“If all the talented people left France, the country would be much poorer. I began an artist’s life very poor, and I am not afraid to be poor again. . . . Art has its value; it is a search after truth and truth is all that counts.”


Henri-Emile-Benoît Matisse (ON-REE MAH-TEESS,born in La Cateau-Cambrésis, France 31 December 1869 – died in Cimiez, France, 3 November 1954) may be considered an “Accidental Artist” because he began his career as a law clerk. By accident he discovered his talent as an artist when he was recuperating from a serious illness. He then began attending morning drawing classes at the Ecole Quentin Latour in 1889. He started at the Académie Julian in Paris a year later and in 1892 began drawing classes with Gustave Moreau at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.

After previously exhibiting at the inaugural Salon d’Automne (1903) with friends such as André Derain, Matisse was part of the famous Fauve exhibition in 1905. Gertrude Stein introduced Matisse to Pablo Picasso with whom he exchanged paintings. Matisse also began to be collected by the Russian art patron SI Shchukin, who commissioned his works Dance and Music in 1909, installing them in his Moscow home in 1910.

In 1920 he was invited by Diaghilev to design the Ballets Russes’ 1920 production of Le Chant du rossignol and travelled frequently between Nice and Monte Carlo to consult the impresario about the project. In 1937 Matisse was again invited, this time by the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, to design scenery and costumes for its ballet Rouge et noir (Red and black).


Costume designs for Le Chant du rossignol:


In 1931 Matisse accepted an important commission from Albert C Barnes to paint a mural, The dance II, for the walls of the Barnes Foundation in Merion, Pennsylvania. Matisse was diagnosed with cancer in 1941 and was forced to use a wheelchair after an operation to remove a tumour. From this time onward Matisse worked extensively with cut-out coloured paper, a design technique that he had first used when developing his costume and scenery designs for Le Chant du rossignol.



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