• Welcome to the website of the French Institute of South Africa!

  • Bienvenue sur le site de l'Institut Français d'Afrique du Sud !

10 Facts about Henri Matisse


Henri Matisse, Jazz, Paris, Tériade, 1947, Stencil prints, Pl. VIII. Icare
Donation Alice Tériade, 2000, Musée départemental Matisse, Le Cateau-Cambrésis
© Succession H. Matisse, Photo Philip Bernard


Henri Matisse proved that creativity takes courage. He shook the art scene to its core and developed a entire new art movement which opened the door for all the modern painters who followed after him.
The first major showcase in Africa of his art takes place at The Standard Bank Gallery from July 13 to September 17 in an exhibition titled Henri Matisse | Rhythm and Meaning.


But just who was Matisse, born in France in 1869 and who by his death 84 years later, had revolutionised the art world? Here are 10 facts about the man:


  • Henri Matisse – who today is known for his bright colours, strong outlines and flattened pictorial space – started off life as a lawyer. He began painting at the age of 21 while recuperating from acute appendicitis only to discover that he felt happier while sick and painting then when he was well and working.

  • Matisse was frenemies with Pablo Picasso. In the beginning they did not like each other’s work. However, they both recognised the power each had to challenge and stimulate creativity within the other. They would often produce the same subjects and even sometimes works with the same titles.

  • Matisse had a lifelong interest in African art and collected African art objects. He visited Morocco in 1911 where he set up a studio in Tangier. He introduced Picasso to African art in 1907. This had a profound effect on Picasso’s development of Cubism and irrevocably altered the course of European modern art.

  • Matisse developed a technique he called “painting with scissors” when confined to a wheelchair during his later years.  After he could no longer stand for extended periods of time, the artist began creating works using a pair of scissors and paper. He used a long stick to assemble them on his walls until he was happy with the arrangement.

  • Matisse loved jazz saying, "Jazz is rhythm and meaning” and "There are wonderful things in Jazz, the improvisation, the liveliness, the being at one with the audience." In 1947 he published a limited edition artist’s book containing prints of colourful cut paper collages, accompanied by his written thoughts and called it Jazz.

  • Other well-known quotes include: “A young painter who cannot liberate himself from the influence of past generations is digging his own grave”; “I would like to recapture that freshness of vision which is characteristic of extreme youth when all the world is new to it” and “Creativity takes courage”.

  • Matisse was one of the founders of the Fauvist movement. In French, the word ‘fauve’ refers to a wild beast, and comes from the critic Louis Vauxcelle’s disparaging comment on viewing an exhibition of works by Matisse and his circle in 1905, in which he commented that the work looked as if it had been produced by wild beasts.

  • The biggest single collection of Matisse’s work, comprising more than 500 paintings, is in the Baltimore Museum of Art in the US and is the bequest of sisters Claribel and Etta Cone, who spent the early part of the 20th Century collecting works directly from Matisse, Picasso and their contemporaries in Paris.

  • Matisse’s daughter, Marguerite, was a member of the French Resistance during World War 2. She was captured, tortured and was sent to the Ravensbruck concentration camp. However, she managed to escape from the train and survived.

  • Many of Matisse’s most significant paintings, including La Danse, were collected by the Russian collector Sergei Schukin in the early twentieth-century. This collection is now split between the Hermitage Museum and the Pushkin Museum of Fine Art.

Henri Matisse|Rhythm and Meaning will feature paintings, drawings, paper cut-outs sculptures and prints. The works are drawn from his early Fauvist years, through his interest in exoticism and orientalism, to the paper cut-outs that he produced during a late-career creative renaissance. The core work in the exhibition will be the full suite of 20 impressions for the prints in the artist’s book Jazz - some of the best known and most celebrated of the artist’s works.  


Henri Matisse | Rhythm and Meaning is presented by Standard Bank in partnership with the Embassy of France in South Africa, the French Institute of South Africa, and with the support of the Musée départemental Matisse du Cateau-Cambrésis, Air France, Total and Air Liquide.


Curators: Patrice Deparpe and Federico Freschi
Venue: Standard Bank Gallery, c/o Simmonds and Frederick Streets, Johannesburg
Admission:  Free


Free public walkabouts hosted by art educator Wilhelm van Rensburg will take place at 13 :00 and 14:00  on the following days: 
13, 15, 20, 22 & 29 July;
5, 10, 12, 17, 19, 24, 26 & 31 August;
1, 7, 9, 14 & 16 September.  


Gallery parking  can be booked with Sue Isaac 011 631 4467

Website: www.standardbank.com/matisse
Twitter: @StandardbankArt #MatisseinSA
Facebook: www.facebook.com/StandardBankArts/
Educational supplements

Arts & Culture - Exhibitions & Workshops

  • 2021-BongiwePhakathi
    Exhibitions & Workshops

    She Bad Bad Exhibition

    Image: "Shields and Protection" - photographic montage, Bongiwe Phakathi The French institute of South Africa is proud to support She Bad Bad, an exhibition curated by Fulufhelo Mobadi that spotlights the work of emerging black female photographers in South Africa, taking place at the Market Photo… Read more
  • 2020-Afropolitan-poster-2 - Copy
    Exhibitions & Workshops

    Afropolitan Comics: From South Africa to the Continent, Images in Conversation

    The French Institute of South Africa (IFAS) is proud to partner with the Cité internationale de la bande dessinée et de l'image for a virtual exhibition, Afropolitan Comics: from South Africa to the continent, images in conversation. This virtual exhibition focuses on the diversity of African… Read more
  • Mailchimp banner
    Exhibitions & Workshops

    The Art of Comics: French bandes dessinées and South African comics in conversation

    The Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG), the Embassy of France in South Africa and the French Institute of South Africa are pleased to present The Art of Comics, an exciting new exhibition that showcases the fascinating worlds of South African comics and French bandes dessinées, the famous French comic… Read more

Follow us:


Join the Culture Newsletter


Tel. (+27) 11 403 0458
Fax. (+27) 11 403 0465