Sometimes it has been conceded that I have a certain technical ability but that all the same my ambition is limited, and does not go beyond the purely visual satisfaction such as can be obtained from looking at a picture. But the thought of a painter must not be considered as separate from his pictorial means, for the thought is worth no more than its expression by the means, which must be more complete (and by complete I do not mean complicated) the deeper is his thought. I am unable to distinguish between the feeling I have about life and my way of translating it.
—Henri Matisse, in “Notes of a Painter” (1908)

Matisse first emerged as a leader of the School of Paris in the fall of 1905. That was the year the critic Louis Vauxcelles, who admired the thirty-six-year-old painter even if he did not understand him, coined the term fauves—“wild beasts”—to describe the...

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