Henri Matisse (1869-1954, French)

Henri Matisse (1869-1954) enjoying an afternoon break from painting with his cat, Minouche, at his apartment and studio in Nice. cat art, cats in art

Henri Matisse enjoying an afternoon break from painting with his cat, Minouche, at his apartment and studio in Nice.

Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse (1869-1954, French) was a draughtsman, printmaker, sculptor and painter known for his bold use of color in addition to being a founder of the Fauvist movement. His father was a successful grain merchant and his mother came from a family of tanners.  In 1888, Matisse passed the bar exam and planned to become a lawyer; however, while bed-ridden after an attack of appendicitis, his mother gave him some art supplies to keep him busy. She was the first to tell him that art is not just drawing the object but listening to the emotions that the object evokes. Matisse said, “From the moment I held the box of colors in my hands, I knew this was my life. I threw myself into it like a beast that plunges towards the thing it loves.” In fact, he was to say to his wife, “I love you dearly, mademoiselle; but I shall always love painting more.”

By 1896 Matisse had exhibited five paintings at the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts. During this period his work was highly influenced by the post-Impressionists Paul Cézanne, Gauguin and Van Gogh.

Matisse was acquainted with Gertrude Stein and met Pablo Picasso while attending her nightly soirees. The two became life-long friends despite the 11 year age difference. Matisse and Picasso painted primarily women and still lifes and both were cat lovers. Matisse was especially attached to his two cats Minouche and Coussi as well as his black cat la Puce (the flea) whom he fed pieces of brioche in the morning.


Matisse and cat, cat art 

During the war years, he remained in Vichy France just as Picasso had done, and his daughter Marguerite was interred in Ravensbruck concentration camp until she escaped right before its liberation.

Matisse suffered off and on from cancer and spent the last decade of his life primarily bed ridden or in a wheelchair. Perhaps this is why he enjoyed the friendship of so many cats.


Henri Matisse and his cat. © Robert Capa © International Center of Photography Magnum Photos.

Matisse and his cat and kitten. © Robert Capa © International Center of Photography Magnum Photos.


Henri Matisse & assistant, photo by Robert Capa

Matisse and assistant
Photo by Robert Capra


Henri Matisse with Cat 1951

Matisse with Cat


Henri Matisse in bed with a cat

Even though Matisse did not include the cat in many of his paintings, many contemporary artists have inserted cats into his works making it difficult to discern which are actually genuine. 

Matisse died of a heart attack at the age of 84 in 1954.



Matisse, 1938, Girl on Red Couch with Cat

Girl on Red Couch with Cat, 1938


Matisse – vase chinois sur le bureau avec chat dessous, cat in art, cats in art

Vase chinois sur le bureau avec chat dessous
Chinese Vase on Table with a Cat Below


Le chat aux poissons rouges - Henri Matisse, cats in art

Le chat aux poissons rouges
The Cat with Red Fish


Matisse cat cutout

Cat Cutout


Matisse and Cat


Want to know more about cats in art, history and literature? Then this is the book for you. Available now on Amazon.



Revered and Reviled: A Complete History of the Domestic Cat, cat history, cats



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