Henri was born on December 31,1869 in Le Cateau-Cambresis, France. He then went to Paris to study law from 1887 to 1891. He then decided to pursue art under Adolphe William Bouguereau at the Academie Julian in Paris. Emile Hippolyte Matisse and Anna Heloise Gerard were his parents.
He was apart of the Fauvist movement which was active 1903 to 1908. This combined the expressionist painters high-key colors and emotional force with the impressionist love of images on contemporary early 20th century life. Matisse's supreme accomplishment was to liberate color from its traditionally realistic function.