Henri Matisse, celebrated as one of this century's greatest colorists, is also now recognized for the brilliant invention he brought to his sculptural compositions. Born in La Cateau-Cambrésis, in northern France, Matisse first studied law before taking up painting at the age of twenty-one, and in 1891 he enrolled at the Académie Julian in Paris. The following year he transferred to the École des Beaux Arts, where he studied under the great Symbolist painter Gustave Moreau. In 1899, Matisse was introduced to André Derain, who in turn introduced him to Maurice de Vlaminck. These artists shared a fascination with the tonal dynamics of Post-Impressionism; their vivid compositions increasingly gave color an emotive, independent, and antinaturalistic role. They exhibited together at the 1905 and 1906 Salon d'Automne, where their paintings created a sensation, leading one critic to refer to them as "Les Fauves" or "wild beasts." By 1909 Matisse shifted to a more serene style in paintings, executed with broad color planes, simplified structures, and idyllic subjects. Matisse's first sculptures were created during his student years. Not surprisingly, his earliest figures were copies after small-scale academic bronzes. By 1900 Matisse had begun more ambitious compositions. His Serf, 1900-1903, took Rodin's The Walking Man as a point of departure. Where Rodin cropped the figure to emphasize the dynamism of the pose, Matisse chose to emphasize the static qualities of his standing figure. Over the next decade Matisse created a number of female nudes, variously rendered as standing and reclining figures, which reveal his careful study of the model. Unlike such contemporaries as Aristide Maillol, who consciously echoed classical archetypes, Matisse sought to render the female nude with a new immediacy, freed of art-historical conventions. The Backs are Matisse's most radical works in bronze.