by Maille Halloran
Were it not for an encounter with oil paints during a period of illness Henri Matisse might never have been a household name. Before the artist discovered what he dubbed his ‘calling’, Matisse studied and worked as a lawyer. In 1887, Matisse left his family home in the extreme north of France for Paris to study the law. This move was prompted by a desire to please his father rather than any real passion for the profession.
Matisse passed the bar a year later with distinction and began to practice. After gaining his qualification, the artist returned to his hometown to work as a court administrator. Matisse’s proactive father also arranged for his son to clerk in a solicitor’s office.
Matisse’s life as a lawyer was brief. In 1889 the artist suffered an attack of appendicitis which left him bedridden and unable to work. Matisse’s mother, who worked selling house paints, brought her son a set of paints to help pass the time. Matisse adopted art as his profession and never looked back.