Le bonheur de vivre (The Joy of Life) is regarded as one of the paintings which gave birth to modernism. It is thought that Picasso, went on to create Les Demoiselles D'Avignon, 1907, in order to provoke the art world into shock as Matisse had done with this painting.

Le bonheur de vivre has a large amount of cadmium sulfide-based yellow which means that sections of the painting are discoloring and turning white and brown, despite efforts to conserve the work.

Woman with a Hat (La femme au chapeau) 1905, shocked Matisse's contemporaries as never before had they seen a portrait in which color had been so roughly applied to the face. Gertrude Stein purchased it, foreseeing it would be an important work of modernism.

Matisse regarded Bathers by a River, 1917, as one of the most important works of his career. It was commissioned by his Russian patron, Sergei Shchuckin and took him over 8 years to finish. Although Matisse rejected cubism, there are references to the art form in this work.

Matisse made over 80 sculptures during his career, predominately from bronze. Large Seated Nude (1922-1929) depicts his model Henriette Darricarrère and is one of the largest freestanding sculptures by Matisse, taking him a decade to make.

The Blue Nudes were a series of cut-outs which Matisse completed in 1952, they are among his last works. The nudes in the cut-outs are an evolution of the figures in Le bonheur de vivre, 1906.