7 Famous Matisse Paintings, and Where To See Them

dance 1 by henri matisse Dance I (1909 - 1910) - Henri Matisse. Image courtesy of Flickr.
henri matisse’s woman with a hat painting Femme au chapeau

Henri Matisse – Femme au chapeau (Woman with a Hat). Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

French artist Henri Matisse, revered for innovating the use of vivid color, held tremendous influence over 20th-century art, and his legacy endures today. As one of the “Fauves” (“wild beasts”) of the early 1900s, Matisse pushed the boundaries of visual art with his flattened, decorative compositions. His artistic versatility led him to create paintings in many different styles, including Fauvism, Post-Impressionism, and Modernism. The journey of Matisse’s oeuvre is marked by a fascinating evolution, where his experimentation with form and color transcends traditional categorization. Keep reading to see some of the most famous Matisse paintings, each a testament to his ever-evolving artistic exploration and enduring impact on the fabric of art history.

Keep reading to see some of the most famous Matisse paintings. Along the way, you’ll learn all about the lasting impression left by these works on the fabric of art history.

Famous Matisse paintings

The following are some of Matisse’s most famous paintings, along with details about their history, context, and craftsmanship.

1. Woman With a Hat (1905)

Completed in 1905, Matisse’s ‘Woman With a Hat,’ or ‘Femme au Chapeau,’ is a prime example of Matisse’s Fauvist style in the early 20th century. This oil-on-canvas painting depicts Matisse’s wife, Amélie, surrounded by a sea of color and characterized with an incisive gaze. 

Some 20th-century critics initially looked down upon ‘Woman With a Hat,’ claiming that it was brash and unsophisticated. Over time, though, this Matisse painting has rightfully earned its place in the high ranks of the 20th-century artistic canon. ‘Woman With a Hat’ first appeared at Paris’ Salon d’Automne, and it is currently on display at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.

2. Dance (1909–1910)

dance 2 by henri matisse

Dance II (1909 – 1910) – Henri Matisse. Image courtesy of Flickr.

Over the course of 1909 and 1910, Matisse painted his Dance series, featuring two Fauvist paintings depicting a group of people joining hands in dance. While the subjects of ‘Dance II,’ pictured above, are more defined and vibrant than ‘Dance I,’ both paintings exhibit movement and tension. 

While Dance I and Dance II are both oil on canvas works with similar subjects, they no longer have the same homes. Russian art mogul Sergei Shchukin originally commissioned Matisse for these pieces, using both to adorn his Moscow estate, known as the Trubetskoy Palace. 

However, Dance I is currently on display at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), while Dance II is housed in St. Petersburg’s Hermitage Museum.

open window, collioure by henri matisse

Open Window, Collioure (1905) – Henri Matisse. Image courtesy of Flickr.

3. Open Window, Collioure (1905)

Open Window, Collioure was another trailblazing addition to Matisse’s Fauvist oeuvre. With thick, bold brush strokes and vibrant, complementary colors, this painting is as striking to a modern audience as it was a century ago. Art historians also note that the work’s abundance of florals and greenery reveals Matisse’s attraction to and skill with Pointillism. The short brush strokes slightly resemble those in Matisse’s later Pointillist works.

Open Window depicts the French region Collioure, one of Matisse’s favorite locations, oft-repeated in his work. Today, the painting is housed in Washington D.C.’s National Gallery of Art, though it is not currently on view.

4. The Blue Nude (1907)

Henri Matisse - The Blue Nude (1907).

Henri Matisse – The Blue Nude (1907). Image courtesy of www.HenriMatisse.org

Painted in 1907, Matisse’s oil-on-canvas ‘The Blue Nude’ is a more muted and neutral take on Fauvism. When visiting Algeria, Matisse was struck by a nude sculpture in the town of Biskra and became inspired to create his own version. As such, the alternate title of The Blue Nude is Souvenir of Biskra. The painting is complete with bold, unforgiving brush strokes — a direct rebellion, historians believe, to the soft and beautiful nudes of the Paris Salon. Today, viewers can find The Blue Nude at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

5. Le Bonheur de vivre (The Joy of Life), (1905–1906)

the joy of life by henri matisse

The Joy of Life (1905 – 1906) – Henri Matisse. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Matisse painted Le Bonheur de vivre over the course of 1905 and 1906. While historians consider the painting to be one of Matisse’s greatest Fauvist works, its thinner, refined line work suggests a subtle deviation from pure Fauvism. This Arcadian scene, painted with oil on canvas, stands at a towering six feet tall and eight feet wide. Matisse used this ample space to paint an abundance of scenes, including one reminiscent of the later Dance paintings.

Matisse first exhibited Le Bonheur de vivre in Paris, where it would later inspire Pablo Picasso. Today, it is on view at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia.

6. Luxe, Calme et Volupté (Luxury, Peace and Pleasure) (1904)

luxe, calme et volupte by henri matisse

Luxe, Calme et Volupté (1904) – Henri Matisse. Image courtesy of Flickr.

Completed in 1904, Matisse’s Luxe, Calme et Volupté exists in a hybrid of styles — Neo-Impressionist, Pointillist, Fauvist — that was far ahead of its time. Matisse was inspired to experiment with short brushstrokes and warm colors while staying with the Pointillist artist Paul Signac in Saint-Tropez. 

With oil on canvas, Matisse modeled the painting from Charles Baudelaire’s poem Invitation to a Voyage, which describes the feeling of escaping to tranquility. Today, Luxe, Calme et Volupté remains close to its birthplace — it’s currently housed in Paris’ Musée d’Orsay.

Invitation to the Voyage

My child, my sister,
Think of the rapture
Of living together there!
Of loving at will,
Of loving till death,
In the land that is like you!
The misty sunlight
Of those cloudy skies
Has for my spirit the charms,
So mysterious,
Of your treacherous eyes,
Shining brightly through their tears.

There all is order and beauty,
Luxury, peace, and pleasure.

Excerpt from L’Invitation au voyage by Charles Baudelaire

7. The Red Studio (1911)

the red studio by henri matisse

The Red Studio (1911) – Henri Matisse. Image courtesy of Flickr.

Completed in 1911, Matisse’s The Red Studio serves as a condensed catalog of some of Matisse’s most famous works. Complete with sculptures, paintings, and a ceramic piece, Matisse gives the viewer an interpretation of his own studio space in the Parisian suburb of Issy-les-Moulineaux. 

Through oil on canvas, Matisse melds the bold colors of Fauvism with the high emotionality of Expressionism, creating a piece with complexity and nuance. The Red Studio also reveals Matisse’s propensity to play with perspective — while the piece may appear flat, it also boasts an immersive three-dimensional quality. Currently, The Red Studio is on view at the MoMA. To learn more about The Red Studio through our Look into the Masterpiece.  

Where to View Matisse Paintings

Matisse’s works can be found across the country and the world, from New York and San Francisco to Paris and Rome. 

Matisse paintings can also be found in the homes of private collectors for the owner to enjoy. One of the best ways to learn about the market value of Matisse’s artwork is to browse an auction history of his pieces. From there, if Matisse’s style and history have compelled you, then you might consider adding an original Matisse to your collection. Whether you’re ready to bid or still exploring your options, online auction houses can help you see what’s available and stay connected to the market.

The Influence of Matisse

With so much versatility and influence over artistry in Europe and beyond, Matisse and his work are revered among art viewers and historians alike. If you gravitate toward paintings by Henri Matisse, consider exploring the work of his Fauvist contemporaries, such as André Derain, Raoul Dufy, and Georges Braque. Similarly, if you’re drawn to Matisse’s early use of color and bold linework, you can explore some of history’s most renowned Fauvist paintings. The more you learn, the closer you’ll get to deciding which Matisse originals might be best to pursue.