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A special chapter in the history of modern sculpture could be devoted to artists who are known primarily for their careers as painters but who have also made groundbreaking contributions to the understanding of three-dimensional form Henri Matisse celebrated as one of this centurys greatest colorists is also now recognized for the brilliant invention he brought to his sculptural compositions Born in La Cateau-Cambrsis in northern France Matisse first studied law before taking up painting at the age of twenty-one and in 1891 he enrolled at the Acadmie Julian in Paris The following year he transferred to the cole des Beaux Arts where he studied under the great Symbolist painter Gustave Moreau In 1899 Matisse was introduced to Andr Derain who in turn introduced him to Maurice de Vlaminck These artists shared a fascination with the tonal dynamics of Post-Impressionism their vivid compositions increasingly gave color an emotive independent and antinaturalistic role They exhibited together at the 1905 and 1906 Salon dAutomne where their paintings created a sensation leading one critic to refer to them as Les Fauves or wild beasts By 1909 Matisse shifted to a more serene style in paintings executed with broad color planes simplified structures and idyllic subjectsMatisses first sculptures were created during his student years Not surprisingly his earliest figures were copies after small-scale academic bronzes By 1900 Matisse had begun more ambitious compositions His Serf 1900-1903 took Rodins The Walking Man as a point of departure Where Rodin cropped the figure to emphasize the dynamism of the pose Matisse chose to emphasize the static qualities of his standing figure Over the next decade Matisse created a number of female nudes variously rendered as standing and reclining figures which reveal his careful study of the model Unlike such contemporaries as Aristide Maillol who consciously echoed classical archetypes Matisse sought to render the female nude with a new immediacy freed of art-historical conventions The Backs are Matisses most radical works in
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