Henri Emile Matisse (1869-1954) is often regarded as the most important French painter of the 20th century. The leader of the Fauvist movement around 1900, Matisse pursued the expressiveness of colour throughout his career. His subjects were largely domestic or figurative, and a distinct Mediterranean verve presides in the treatment. Twice in 1906 Henri Matisse painted the same brooding young sailor in the same pose in the Mediterranean town of Collioure.
Critics have always preferred Le Jeune Marin II for its flowing strokes and color. Perhaps that was because they saw little of Jeune Marin I; Matisse sold it to Gertrude Stein's brother Michael, who twelve years later sold it to a Norwegian collector.
At the end of 1978, Marin I surfaced at exhibitions in New York and Zurich, a prelude to auction in 1979 at Christie's in London. There, in spirited bidding on the floor and by telephone, the oil was knocked down for $1,584,000, an auction record for 19th and 20th century paintings. Christie's would only identify the successful bidder as being from "across the Atlantic." Presumably that meant the U.S., although Jeune Marin II is in Mexico City.
Matisse initially became famous as the
King of the Fauves, an inappropriate name for this gentlemanly intellectual: there was no wildness in him, though there was much passion. He is an awesomely controlled artist, and his spirit, his mind, always had the upper hand over the "beast" of Fauvism. Matisse died of a heart attack at the age of 84 in 1954. He is interred in the cemetery of the Monastère Notre Dame de Cimiez and a Matisse Museum was opened in the area.