Matisse’s prints are less about a specific technique or the time period in which they were created and more about pure drawing. In fact, many of these images were drawn on paper with crayon and only later sent to a master printer for transfer to lithographic stone or plate. Matisse was able to retain the concentration and immediacy of his drawing style this way, unencumbered by the rigors of printmaking technique.
The pure freedom of his line is well-illustrated in Three-Quarter View of Nude with Cropped Head (1913, crayon transfer litho) and in Seated Nude, Viewed from Behind (1913, crayon transfer litho), where a meandering line defines both the figure and the space around it.
It was the kind of subject matter that wasn’t always welcome. He was largely scorned by the art establishment in France, in part for his “Fauvist” tendencies and for his unabashedly modern depictions of women, interiors and still lifes.
Matisse was born in 1869 to a family of shopkeepers in a gloomy town in northern France, Le Cateau-Cambrésis — best known for its textiles — but escaped the confines of his childhood home for Paris to work as an artist.
Matisse brought one aspect of the small town he grew up in with him to Paris: his memory of the fabrics made by local weavers there — the silks, brocades and weavings that appear as a familiar motif in his work.
There is little that’s gloomy or brooding about the drawings of Matisse. Not only does he elevate the decorative detail to an essential element, but his searching, linear style is often a joyful celebration of his subject.
...According to Matisse’s great-grandson, Alexander, Henri Matisse was an “incredibly serious man.”
As Alexander puts it, “What I know from my father is that what my great-grandfather cared about more than anything else was his work. It sometimes made him a difficult person to be around, but he was incredibly committed in a way few people are — and he was always changing, his work was always changing.”....