Matisse: Wizard of Colors’ Exceptional Love for Cats and Doves

Matisse- Henri Matisse was a prominent painter who led the movement of Fauvism, which aim is to simplify the forms to the essence and express the emotion evoked by the object. His mastery of the expressive language of brilliant colour and drawing, displayed in a body of work spanning over a half-century, won him recognition as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. And Matisse loved cats so dearly as his friend Picasso did!

Henri Matisse

Matisse enjoying an afternoon break from painting with his cat, Minouche, at his apartment and studio in Nice

Matisse enjoying an afternoon break from painting with his cat, Minouche, at his apartment and studio in Nice (THE GREAT CAT)

Born on December 31, 1869, in the textile town of Le Cateau in northern France near the Belgian border. His father was a successful grain merchant whose family were weavers. In 1887 he went to Paris to study law, working as a court administrator in Le Cateau-Cambrésis after gaining his qualification.

As a young man Matisse worked as a legal clerk and then studied for a law degree in Paris in 1887–89. Returning to a position in a law office in the town of Saint-Quentin, he began taking a drawing class in the mornings before he went to work.

Matisse’s mother was the first to advise her son not to adhere to the rules of art, but rather listen to his own emotions that the object evokes. She supplied him art supplies during the period of convalescence from an attack of appendicitis when he was working at a law office.

From the moment I held the box of colors in my hands, I knew this was my life. I threw myself into it like a beast that plunges towards the thing it loves.

Henri Matisse quotes (goodreads)

In 1891 Matisse moved to Paris for artistic training. He was exposed to the recent Post-Impressionist works while living in Paris.

Matisse had a major creative breakthrough in the years 1904–05. A visit to Saint-Tropez in southern France inspired him to paint bright, light-dappled canvases such as Luxe, calme et volupté (1904–05).

Henri Matisse, LUXE, CALME, ET VOLUPTE' Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris 1904-05

Henri Matisse, LUXE, CALME, ET VOLUPTE’ Musée National d’Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris 1904–05 (

And a summer in the Mediterranean village of Collioure produced his major works Open Window and Woman with a Hat in 1905.

Henri Matisse, The Open Window (1905)

Henri Matisse, The Open Window (1905) (

Matisse Woman with a Hat

Woman with a Hat (Femme au chapeau), 1905 by Henri Matisse (Wikipedia)

He continued to emphasize the emotional power of sinuous lines, strong brushwork and acid-bright colors in works such as The Joy of Life, capturing a mood rather than merely trying to depict the world realistically. Simplifying the forms to their essence is his overall goal. He had found his own style.

After finding his own style, his art was purchased by prominent collectors such as Gertrude Stein in Paris and the Russian businessman Sergei Shchukin, who commissioned Matisse’s important pair of paintings Dance I and Music in 1909–10.

Henri Matisse Dance (I) Paris, Boulevard des Invalides, early 1909

Henri Matisse Dance (I) Paris, Boulevard des Invalides, early 1909 (MoMA)

Music by Henri Matisse - 1910

Music by Henri Matisse — 1910 (WikiArt)

Matisse signed with the prestigious art dealers of Galerie Bernheim-Jeune in Paris and was able to travel Italy, Germany , Spain and North Africa for inspiration.

Minouche, Coussi, La Puce and Doves

Matisse and a cat

Matisse and a cat (THE GREAT CAT)

A series of photographs taken at Villa Le Reve by Helene Adant shows Matisse’s exceptional love for cats and doves. Minouche, Coussi, and La Puce the black cat. He fed his cats pieces of brioche every morning.

Henri Matisse and his cat in bed

Henri Matisse and his cat in bed (THE GREAT CAT)

He loved birds, but especially doves to no end. It began in 1936 when he was strolling along the banks of the river Seine in that summer. Matisse found a variety of caged song birds and doves sold by the merchants.

Henri Matisse holding a dove in his left hand and drawing him by the right hand

Henri Matisse and a dove (PARLEZ-VOUS PHOTOGRAPHY?)

He’d returned home with five or six birds at a time and delighted in their shapes and colors, plumage and singing.

Henri Matisse at his home, villa Le Rêve February 1944.

Henri Matisse at his home, villa “Le Rêve” February 1944.

Nearing the end of his day, Matisse gave Picasso, who loved birds and had canaries and pigeons his own, the last of his fancy pigeons. Picasso drew its portrait on the famous poster, Dove of Peace.

Spirit of Wild Beast — Fauvism

Matisse Blue Nude

Blue Nude
1952 102x76cm gouache on paper, cut and pasted,
and charcoal on paper, mounted on canva
Paris, musée d’Orsay, dépôt au musée Matisse/Nice.

Matisse is the leader of this movement, whose members shared the use of intense color as a vehicle for describing light and space, and who redefined pure color and form as means of communication the artist’s emotional state.

His underlying aim was to discover the essential character of things” and to produce an art “of balance, purity, and serenity, as he himself put it. Initially inspired by the examples of Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Georges Seurat, and Paul Cézanne, Fauve artists favored vibrant colors and winding gestural strokes across the canvas.

Henri Matisse Still Life with Red Carpet (1904)

Henri Matisse Still Life with Red Carpet (1904) (French Galleries)

Matisse proved color could project a mood and establish a structure within the work of art without having to be true to the natural world.

Creativity takes courage.

Henri Matisse quotes (goodreads)

Influence of North African, Persian, Japanese Art

Henri Matisse (French, 1869-1954) - Decorative Figure on an Ornamental Background, 1925-1926

Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954) — Decorative Figure on an Ornamental Background, 1925–1926 (Pinterest)

Matisse was heavily influenced by art from other cultures.

Odalisque au tambourin-Harmonie en bleu, 1926 Henri Matisse

Odalisque au tambourin-Harmonie en bleu, 1926 Henri Matisse (Pinterest)

Having seen several exhibitions of Asian art, and having traveled to North Africa, he incorporated some of the decorative qualities of Islamic art, the angularity of African sculpture, and the flatness of Japanese prints into his own style.

Odalisque in Red Jacket by Henri Matisse, 1927

Odalisque in Red Jacket by Henri Matisse, 1927 (Tumblr)

Don’t wait for inspiration. It comes while working.

Henri Matisse quotes (goodreads)

Joy of Life (Le Bonheur de Vivre) (1905–06)

Joy of Life (Bonheur de Vivre), 1905 by Henri Matisse

Joy of Life (Bonheur de Vivre), 1905 by Henri Matisse (

Depicting an Arcadian landscape filled with brilliantly colored forest, meadow, sea, and sky and populated by nude figures both at rest and in motion. As with the earlier Fauve canvases, color is responsive only to emotional expression and the formal needs of the canvas, not the realities of nature.

Matisse constructs the landscape so that it functions as a stage. Trees are planted at the sides and in the far distance, and their upper boughs are spread apart like curtains, highlighting the figures lounging beneath. You can see the influences of North African, Persian miniatures, Japanese woodcuts here.

Matisse portrait

Matisse portrait (MUSÉE DE L’ORANGERIE)

There are always flowers for those who want to see them.

Henri Matisse quotes (goodreads)

The Cut-Outs, Final Years

Henri Matisse Icaro

Henri Matisse Icaro (Didatticarte)

In 1947, he published the 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 devise works and produced Swimming Pool (1952). Matisse once wrote in a letter I have the mastery of it, I am sure of it. Matisse almost reinvented color in painting had by now found freedom in the simplicity of decoration.

…for whether we want to or not, we belong to our time and we share in its opinions, its feelings, even its delusions.

Henri Matisse quotes (goodreads)

Henri Matisse Swimming Pool

Henri Matisse Swimming Pool (MoMA)

Henri Matisse La Gerbe 1953

Henri Matisse La Gerbe 1953 (Tilton Fenwick)

We ought to view ourselves with the same curiosity and openness with which we study a tree, the sky or a thought, because we too are linked to the entire universe.

Henri Matisse quotes (goodreads)

Matisse died on November 3, 1954, at the age of 84, in Nice. He was buried in nearby Cimiez. La Gerbe (The Theaf) above, multicolored leaves that resemble a spray of flowers, was completed a few months before his death, but it explodes with life. He is still regarded as one of the most innovative and influential artists of the 20th century.

Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse (cmc éditions)

All things considered, there is only Matisse.

Pablo Picasso Quotes (Art Quotes)


Henri Matisse (THE ART STORY)
 The Personal Life of Henri Matisse (henri matisse)
 Henri Matisse Biography (Bio)
 Henri Matisse (1869–1954, French) (THE GREAT CAT)
 Henri Matisse (Wikipedia)
 Fauvism (THE ART STORY)
 Dance by Matisse: From the History of the Mural (Modern Art Consulting)

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 Paul Gauguin Paintings: Cats in Exotic Location

Originally published at Johnny Times.

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