Main room with two windows opening on the quay, bedroom, dining room, kitchen, hall—well laid out—rent 1300 francs—so I took it, realizing at last that this is what I wanted—your mother, who found the idea extraordinary to start with, is quite happy now.
—Matisse to his daughter, Marguerite, concerning his new studio, December 26, 1913

On January 1, 1914, Matisse and his wife, Amélie, moved into an apartment on the fourth floor of 19, quai Saint-Michel, in Paris, directly beneath the studio that he had occupied for more than a decade until 1907. Originally, he planned to return to Tangier for the winter, but he began to wonder whether it would be wise, writing to fellow artist Charles Camoin, “my present task demands concentration . . . a trip, a change of climate and the excitement of new things . . . would lead my attention to be dispersed . . . the excitement of Paris is sufficient for me for now.”

Matisse knew that he wanted a break from his studio in Issy-les-Moulineaux in order to better focus on the direction of his artistic exploration. Indeed, the quai Saint-Michel space inspired him: allowing him to return to familiar themes and ready-made motifs in order to move them into new territory. In just over six months, he produced almost a dozen canvases; although each is a remarkably bold and different work, many are united by palette and canvas size, giving them the quality of a series.

Matisse used virtually every canvas to experiment with a new visual approach. He succeeded in executing some freely and quickly; others, as he put it, “had to be done and redone,” as he scratched, scraped, and repainted, creating heavily worked pictures that constitute his own response to Cubism’s challenge to form and space. The Parisian avant-garde took note: in May the art journal Les soirées de Paris published reproductions of five paintings—The Blue Window, Woman on a High Stool, Interior with Goldfish, Still Life with Lemons, and Tulips (private collection)—as well as two drawings. Poet and critic Guillaume Apollinaire enthusiastically praised these works as “full of freshness, power and sensitivity.”