Henri Matisse: His Life & Travels
Joseph Cassar, professor of art, University of Maryland University College and the New York Times Knowledge Network
Painter, collage artist, and colorist Henri Matisse was heavily influenced by the art of other cultures. Matisse immersed himself in the study of old masters and his contemporaries early on, collecting many works by those he admired. But his studies did not end there; he expanded his understanding of art and design through visits to exhibitions of international art and through global travel. After seeing an exhibition of work by Delacroix based on the artist’s time in Africa, Matisse traveled to North Africa to see this source for himself. Eventually, he saw several exhibitions of Islamic and Asian art, traveled to Spain to study Moorish Art, purchased textiles in Tangier, and spent time in Tahiti. As a consequence, he incorporated some of the decorative and stylistic qualities of these Non-Western influences into his own style. His contemporaries and close companions, Gauguin and Picasso, also sampled Non-Western art and design motifs. During the early part of the 20th century in Paris, the artistic elite readily rejected academic tradition. Non-Western art, particularly African art, became a source of inspiration for artists searching for new systems of representation eventually leading to the practice of abstraction in Western art.
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