Henri Matisse was born December 31, 1869, in Le Cateau in northern France. Over a six-decade career he worked in all media, from painting to sculpture to printmaking. Although his subjects were traditional—nudes, figures in landscapes, portraits, interior views—his revolutionary use of brilliant color and exaggerated form to express emotion made him one of the most influential artists of the 20th century.
In his later career, Matisse received several major commissions, such as a mural for the art gallery of collector Dr. Albert Barnes of Pennsylvania, titled Dance II, in 1931-33. He also drew book illustrations for a series of limited-edition poetry collections.
After surgery in 1941, Matisse was often bedridden; however, he continued to work from a bed in his studio. When necessary, he would draw with a pencil or charcoal attached to the end of a long pole that enabled him to reach the paper or canvas. His late work was just as experimental and vibrant as his earlier artistic breakthroughs had been. It included his 1947 book Jazz, which placed his own thoughts on life and art side by side with lively images of colored paper cutouts. This project led him to devising works that were cutouts on their own, most notably several series of expressively shaped human figures cut from bright blue paper and pasted to wall-size background sheets (such as Swimming Pool, 1952).
In one of his final projects, Matisse created an entire program of decorations for the Chapel of the Rosary in Vence (1948-51), a town near Nice, designing stained-glass windows, murals, furnishings, and even sacred vestments for the church’s priests.
Matisse died on November 3, 1954, at the age of 84, in Nice. He was buried in nearby Cimiez. He is still regarded as one of the most innovative and influential artists of the 20th century.