Henri-Emile-Benoît Matisse was born on December 31, 1869 in Le Cateau-Cambrésis, France. He grew up in Bohain-en-Vermandois and studied law in Paris from 1887 to 1888. By 1891, he had abandoned law and started to paint. In Paris, Matisse studied art briefly at the Académie Julian and then at the École des Beaux-Arts with Gustave Moreau.
In 1901 Matisse exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants in Paris and met another future leader of the Fauvism movement, Maurice de Vlaminck. His first solo show took place at the Galerie Vollard in 1904. Like many avant-garde artists in Paris, Matisse was receptive to a broad range of influences. He was one of the first painters to take an interest in 'primitive' art. His subjects were primarily women, interiors and still lifes. In 1913 his work was included in the Armory Show in New York.
From the early 1920s until 1939 Matisse divided his time primarily between the South of France and Paris. During this period, he worked on paintings, sculptures, lithographs and etchings, as well as on murals for the Barnes Foundation, Merion, Pennsylvania, and set and costume designs for Léonide Massine's ballet Rouge et Noir. In 1951 a major retrospective of his work was presented at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and then travelled to Cleveland, Chicago and San Francisco. In 1952, the Musée Matisse was inaugurated at the artist's birthplace of Le Cateau-Cambrésis. He died on November 3, 1954 in Nice.