Henri Matisse, Dance (I), 1909.
Ripe fruit, luxurious fabrics, comely women, a window with a view of an ultramarine sea: the world of Henri Matisse is one of pleasures. Along with fellow modernist Pablo Picasso, he is one of the giants of the 20th-century avant-garde, a perennial subject of blockbuster exhibitions whose cut-paper figures are among the most famous images in art history.
According to several recent biographies, he was also a workaholic, a depressive, and a frequent punching bag for the Parisian intellectual vanguard, which ran hot and cold on his paintings’ busy patterning and lush palette. (His stalwart frenemy Picasso, upon seeing Matisse’s full-bodied Blue Nude from 1907, apparently sneered “If he wants to make a woman, let him make a woman. If he wants to make a design, let him make a design.”)