I feel unwilling to do new pictures to explain the preceding ones . . . but want to do canvases that capture my emotions of the moment. I . . . find my independence under attack. . . . I do not believe I can work fruitfully and in the greatest liberty.

—Matisse, writing from Spain to the artist Jean Biette, January 9, 1911

In the aftermath of the 1910 Salon d’Automne, Matisse withdrew from close contact with the Paris art world, where Cubists such as Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, and their supporters were gaining prominence, and broadened his search for new ways of making art. To accomplish this, he moved outward, taking to the road. He traveled to Spain, where rich textiles and Moorish architecture inspired him to introduce to his canvases decorative patterning juxtaposed with flat expanses of color. After returning to France, he replaced this patterning with bold areas of color, an approach that also served to emphasize the flatness of his pictures. Matisse also looked back, revisiting his earlier practice of exploring a theme serially by developing variations of a given subject: in the four Jeannette sculptures, the artist drew upon his experience of working on the plaster cast of Back (I).

Between the beginning of 1912 and February 1913, Matisse also made two trips to Morocco. He immersed himself in the new environment of Tangier, recording his experiences in sketches of the city’s landscape and inhabitants. The artist also continued to explore the language of color, developing a different form of pictorial construction in which he juxtaposed flat areas of intense, contrasting hues. His paintings from this time reveal the power of North African light to dissolve form and reconstruct space into vaporous, interwoven layers of color. They also reveal that, in Morocco, Matisse had found yet another Arcadia and had begun to explore themes of idyllic pleasure that both echo his earlier bathers images and anticipate The Moroccans, the monumental canvas he started to plan in 1912 but would not execute until 1915.