Dubbed “The American Matisse”, Pierre Matisse cannot help but paint. It is in his blood. “Basically, I was born in an art studio,” Matisse explains. “I love art. It is something inbred in me.” His grandfather was, of course, the great French Fauvist painter and sculptor Henri Matisse, his mother Louise Milhau was a painter, sculptor and ceramist, and his father Jean Matisse was a sculptor. As a child, Pierre lived in Montparnasse, the artistic section of Paris and Costa Brava (an artistic section of Spain where Salvador Dali lived). He also spent time in the French Rivera, where he was exposed to the great artists of the early 20th century including, (of course) Henri Matisse and Henri Matisse’s friend and rival, Pablo Picasso. “I spend the best years of my childhood in my grandfather’s studio. It was like being a kid in a candy store,” Pierre reminisces. “I had no idea they were famous,” and found them to be “very passionate and enthusiastic people.”
Pierre’s art, alive and bright with eye-catching colors in active shapes that instantly communicate joie de vivre, is ironically influenced by one of history’s darkest chapters, World War II. “It is a reaction to the sufferings of war,” he says. Pierre lived history during his teenage years in Nazi-occupied France. He stood on one of the beaches of Normandy on D-Day, having just turned sixteen. His father worked with the British Intelligence Service and his mother and aunt were both arrested by the Germans. “This also impacted my art because I cherish my freedom and I had a pretty good look at how much it costs to keep it. There is no negotiation on freedom. Either you are a slave or you are free. There is nothing in between,” says Pierre. “That is why I am an American - because America stands for freedom.” Today, he bears the moniker, “The artist of love and freedom,” for a very good reason.
“Graphic artists mature very old,” says Pierre. “There are very few prodigies. In music you have a lot, but in art, very rare. I knew right away it would take me a long time to become a real artist.” So, after the war, Pierre got a degree in antique restoration, volunteered for a French outfit in Algeria, and spent time gathering the life experience his paintings would later require. He even worked on a hydroelectric dam in Canada, despite having a degree in Louis XIV, XV and XVI furniture. “You have to live life to the fullest so you can express it in your art,” explains Pierre.
Pierre uses some of his childhood memories as inspiration. For instance, “Fishes and Flowers and Frogs, Oh My!” was inspired by a pond he knew as a kid. He is inspired by Paris and Spain and paints flowers of his own invention. His work is like fireworks, a burst of spectacular and colorful energy that dazzles the eye. Pierre makes his magic using cutouts, drawing, pastels, oils and mixed media.
Pierre did the official poster for the 2002 winter Olympics in Utah. To view his work, visit http://www.matissemuseum.com/