Whether working as a draftsman, a sculptor, a printmaker or a painter Henri Matisse was a master of color. Although classically trained at the Académie Julian, in Paris, he quickly abandoned traditional techniques and genres to pioneer a style all his own, marked by quick, gestural strokes and fluid contours.
Along with fellow painter André Derain, Matisse was the leading proponent of Fauvism, a movement whose name is derived from the French word for "wild beast.” Marked by vibrant hues, Fauvist paintings like Matisse’s famous 1906 composition Le Bonheur de vivre, use wild, active brushstrokes and a palette unconstrained by nature, resulting in women with purple skin and trees with orange leaves. Often, these compositions unite pure color with the white of exposed canvas to create a sense of transparency and light.
In addition to masterful landscapes and still lifes, Matisse loved to paint erotic subjects, particularly the female nude. Rejecting strict realism, he distilled the form into its essential parts and then translated these into voluptuous, rounded contours. In pictures like the lithograph Nu Bleu, he explored the expressive power of a body in motion by placing his figures in twisted or conrtorted poses, transforming their limbs into tangles of color and shape that pushfigure painting toward abstraction.