It was well known that Henri Matisse could be a stubborn man. He had gained a reputation as a non-conformist. He was kicked out of multiple studios over the course of his career because of this attitude, and he was repeatedly under attack for his unorthodox color usage and his lack of interest in representing naturalistic anatomy. As he formed his own style and gained notoriety for it, a few of his wealthy friends and patrons funded the opening of his own school in Paris, where he had the opportunity to spread his own ideas about painting to burgeoning artists. Academie Matisse opened in January 1908.

Matisse and his students, 1909

Matisse amongst his students, 1909

Attending “Academie Matisse” was a unique experience from the other painting schools in Paris. Matisse allowed his students to draw from models and casts, such as one of the Apollo Belvedere—in fact, for the first few months, students were only allowed to draw, only being allowed to paint once Matisse felt they had mastered the drawing basics—and encouraged them to visit the Louvre on the weekends to study and copy works on display. Matisse’s interest in Post-Impressionist color theory meant that he would allow his students to use color experimentally. Many students recall that Matisse could be a tough teacher and discouraged art that he considered lazy or unfocused, urging his students to be intentional about their painting rather than simply copying another’s style.

As was typical of Parisian academies of the time, on Saturdays Matisse would conduct a weekly critique of his students’ work. Making sure to leave enough time to fairly critique every student, many of his pupils found this to be both the most nerve-wracking experience of attending Academie Matisse and the moment where Matisse would shine, as students found his direct practical advice to be the most valuable part of attendance. Matisse would also often host his students in his own studio, showing them works from his own collection or his current works in progress, giving his students the opportunity to comment on his work in return.

Students at work at the Academie Matisse

The Academie Matisse was short-lived. Matisse would stop teaching only a year after its founding in 1909, though the school would continue without him for two more years. In the summer of 1911, Academie Matisse would close altogether when the Matisse family would move to Issy-les-Moulineaux. During the brief existence of Academie Matisse, however, Matisse would teach multiple influential figures, including the painters Max Weber, Beatrice de Waard, Patrick Henry Bruce, Hans Purrmann, and more, and the artistic exchanges made there would become world famous.

Examples of work done by students while at Academie Mattise:

Hans Purrmann, Standing Nude (1910)

Jean Heiberg, Figure Study (1909)