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Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse’s experiments with form and color revolutionized the twentieth-century art world. In this concise critical biography, Kathryn Brown explores Matisse’s long career, beginning with his struggles as a student in Paris and culminating in his celebrated use of paper cutouts and stained glass in the last decade of his life. The book challenges various myths about Matisse and offers a fresh perspective on his creativity and legacy. Chapters explore the artist’s enthusiasm for fashion and cinema, his travels, personal ties, interest in African art, love of literature, and willingness to challenge audience expectations. Through close readings of Matisse’s works, Brown offers new insight into the artist’s friendships and battles with dealers, critics, collectors, and fellow artists.

224 pages | 60 halftones | 5 x 7 3/4

Critical Lives

Art: Art--Biography

Biography and Letters

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"Effortlessly and engagingly told, a sprightly and readable critical biography. Brown clearly understands that the reason to find out about Matisse is primarily his painting and sculpture, that family, fame, history and culture are the support for this discussion, not the focus."

International Times

"This is a compact and succinct overview of the life and work of renowned French artist Henri Matisse (1869–1954). Brown explores the artist’s life, from his early years struggling in Paris and painting in the fauvist style, to his turn-of-the-century success thanks to the patronage of the Stein family of American collectors (Leo, Sarah, Michael, and Gertrude). The book then follows Matisse’s travels to Morocco and Tahiti; his more abstract work, created during World War I; and his mature years working in the South of France. Brown situates Matisse’s art in relation to his own philosophy about making art, and his contemporary critics, and more recent discourses on the art historical analysis of his work."

Library Journal

"This detailed and well-written biography of Henri Matisse traces not just his life story, but his development as an artist within the context of the period."


"Brown's lucid and sophisticated text presents the great modernist, Henri Matisse, as a highly experimental artist who drew on an exceptionally wide range of visual sources and yet was also a shrewd marketing man, carefully managing his public identity and surrounding himself with a constellation of supportive poets and writers. Bolstered by astute summaries of the current critical debates around Matisse and sensitive formal analyses of the artist's work, Brown's book is the best short biography of Matisse available."

Simon Kelly, curator of modern and contemporary art, Saint Louis Art Museum

"An insightful addition to Matisse’s scholarship [and] a true page-turner, written in an engaging style, this study is a multi-layered analysis of Matisse’s career. It focuses on Matisse’s talent to shape his own transnational public image as one of the first internationally famous artists of the twentieth century."

Véronique Chagnon-Burke, Academic Director, Christie’s Education

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