It was well known that Henri Matisse could be a stubborn man. He had gained a reputation as a non-conformist. He was kicked out of multiple studios over the course of his career because of this attitude, and he was repeatedly under attack for his unorthodox color usage and his lack of interest in representing naturalistic anatomy. As he formed his own style and gained notoriety for it, a few of his wealthy friends and patrons funded the opening of his own school in Paris, where he had the opportunity to spread his own ideas about painting to burgeoning artists. Academie Matisse opened in January 1908.
Attending “Academie Matisse” was a unique experience from the other painting schools in Paris. Matisse allowed his students to draw from models and casts, such as one of the Apollo Belvedere—in fact, for the first few months, students were only allowed to draw, only being allowed to paint once Matisse felt they had mastered the drawing basics—and encouraged them to visit the Louvre on the weekends to study and copy works on display. Matisse’s interest in Post-Impressionist color theory meant that he would allow his students to use color experimentally. Many students recall that Matisse could be a tough teacher and discouraged art that he considered lazy or unfocused, urging his students to be intentional about their painting rather than simply copying another’s style.
As was typical of Parisian academies of the time, on Saturdays Matisse would conduct a weekly critique of his students’ work. Making sure to leave enough time to fairly critique every student, many of his pupils found this to be both the most nerve-wracking experience of attending Academie Matisse and the moment where Matisse would shine, as students found his direct practical advice to be the most valuable part of attendance. Matisse would also often host his students in his own studio, showing them works from his own collection or his current works in progress, giving his students the opportunity to comment on his work in return.
The Academie Matisse was short-lived. Matisse would stop teaching only a year after its founding in 1909, though the school would continue without him for two more years. In the summer of 1911, Academie Matisse would close altogether when the Matisse family would move to Issy-les-Moulineaux. During the brief existence of Academie Matisse, however, Matisse would teach multiple influential figures, including the painters Max Weber, Beatrice de Waard, Patrick Henry Bruce, Hans Purrmann, and more, and the artistic exchanges made there would become world famous.
Examples of work done by students while at Academie Mattise:
Amélie Matisse, born Amélie Parayre, grew up in Beauzelle and Paris the daughter of Armand and Catherine Parayre. Amélie met Henri Matisse in 1897 when they incidentally sat next to one another at a wedding in Paris. They were married a short while later in 1898.
Amélie Matisse, born Amélie Parayre, grew up in Beauzelle and Paris the daughter of Armand and Catherine Parayre. Not much is known about her young life, except that her parents were part of a political free and forward thinking circle. Her father Armand was a school teacher turned director of the activist newspaper Avenir de Seine et Marne. They were champions of a free, equal France. Amélie met Henri Matisse in 1897 when they incidentally sat next to one another at a wedding in Paris. They were married a short while later in 1898. Amélie opened a hat shop on rue de Chateaudun in 1899 and the couple, along with Matisse’s daughter Marguerite from a previous relationship, moved into a small apartment just down the street. Though loving, their relationship was also one of practical symbiosis. Amélie understood that, while loved intensely by her husband, she would also come second to his painting. She accepted and thrived on this, working hard to make sure that Matisse had the tools he needed to find success.
They were very poor in the early years of their marriage, with Matisse a struggling artist. Their two sons, Jean and Pierre, were born in 1899 and 1900 respectively. In 1902 Amélie’s parents were struck by financial scandal deriving from the fraud of their employer. This incident made Amélie suspicious of the world, a trend which followed her for the rest of her life. Amélie was so engaged in Matisse’s career, that she acted like a wife and personal manager to the artist. Their relationship began to falter when Matisse sought more independence, including finding an art dealer of his own named Sergei Shchukin. This coincided with a move into a larger home in Issy-les-Moulineaux, where Matisse was able to be more absent and alone than in the studio homes they had shared before. The lack of dependence on Amélie was difficult for her.
This was exacerbated when, in 1939, Amélie felt her role in the creative process being overtaken by Lydia Delectorskaya, who had been hired as an assistant for Matisse, but in recent years was more of a model and intellectual and creative partner to Matisse. Amélie, feeling that her role in Matisse’s life was threatened, asked him to choose between the two. Though he picked his wife, they were separated by the end of the year.
Not much is known about the later years of Amélie’s life, but in 1944 she was arrested and jailed for 6 months for working with resistance. Amélie died in 1958 and is buried in the same plot as Matisse.
‘Biography,’ Henri-Matisse.net. Accessed November 18, 2016. http://www.henri-matisse.net/biography.html
Hodges, Michael. ‘A daughter tortured by Nazis. A besotted, suicidal muse. His own cancer and chronic depression: The unbelievable story of Henri Matisse,’ The Daily Mail. March 29, 2004. Accessed November 18, 2016. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/home/event/article-2590862/Henri-Matisse-Guns-Girls-Gestapo-The-wild-final-years-Henri-Matisse.html
Russell, John. Matisse: Father & Son. New York: Henry N. Abrams, 1999.
Schjeldahl, Peter. ‘Art as Life: The Matisse we never knew,’ The New Yorker. August 29, 2005. Accessed November 18, 2016. http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2005/08/29/art-as-life
Tuchman, Phyllis. ‘I Shall Always Love Painting More,’ The Washington Post. September 25, 2005. Accessed November 18, 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/09/22/AR2005092200996.html