Born in Northern France in 1869, Matisse grew up in Bohain-en-Vermandois, Picardie. He initially studied law, but at 21 discovered a love for painting and decided to train as an artist instead. Moving to Paris in 1891, he studied at the Académie Julian under William-Adolphe Bouguereau, and at the École des Beaux-Arts where he was a student of Gustave Moreau.
In 1897, the painter John Peter Russell introduced Matisse to the work of Van Gogh and the Impressionists, inspiring him to create the masterpiece The Dinner Table. Influenced by the paintings of Turner and Cézanne, as well as Japanese, Islamic and African art, he experimented with colour theory and gained recognition as one of the leaders of Fauvism. Over his life he worked prolifically as a painter, sculptor and printmaker, creating his famous cut-out works during his later years when he could no longer paint unaided.
Matisse died in 1954, in Nice.