Bathers by a River

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Henri Matisse
French, 1869–1954

Bathers by a River, March 1909-10, May-November 1913, and early spring 1916-October (?) 1917

Oil on canvas
102 1/2 x 154 3/16 in. (260 x 392 cm)
Signed, l.l.: "Henri-Matisse"
Charles H. and Mary F. S. Worcester Collection, 1953.158

© 2014 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Henri Matisse considered Bathers by a River to be one of the five most "pivotal" works of his career, and with good reason: it facilitated the evolution of the artist’s style over the course of nearly a decade. Originally, the work was related to a 1909 commission by the Russian collector Sergei Shchukin, who wanted two large canvases to decorate the staircase of his Moscow home. Matisse proposed three pastoral images, though Shchukin decided to purchase only two works, Dance II and Music (State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg).

Four years later, Matisse returned to this canvas, the rejected third image, altering the idyllic scene and changing the pastel palette to reflect his new interest in Cubism. He reordered the composition, making the figures more columnar, with faceless, ovoid heads. Over the next years, Matisse transformed the background into four vertical bands and turned the formerly blue river into a thick black vertical band. With its restricted palette and severely abstracted forms, Bathers by a River is far removed from Dance II and Music, which convey a graceful lyricism. The sobriety and hint of danger in Bathers by a River may in part reflect the artist’s concerns during the terrible, war torn period during which he completed it.

— Entry, The Essential Guide, 2013, p. 250.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Paris, Galerie Paul Guillaume, October 8, 1926, as Les Demoiselles á la rivière.

Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, 1927.

New York, Valentin Dudensing Gallery, 1930s.

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Henri Matisse: Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings, Drawings, and Sculpture, April 3–May 9, 1948, p. 39, cat. 43 (ill.), as Girls Bathing (Au Bord de la Riviére).

Paris, Gallery Charpentier, Autour de 1900, 1950, n.p., cat. 120 (ill.), as Jeunes filles à la riviére, 1914.

New York, Museum of Modern Art, Henri Matisse, November 13, 1951–January 13, 1952, pp. 6, 10, cat. 47, as Bathers by a River (Women at a Spring); traveled to Cleveland Museum of Art, February 5–March 16, 1952; Art Institute of Chicago, April 1–May 4, 1952; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, May 22–July 6, 1952.

New York, Museum of Modern Art, Henri Matisse: A Retrospective, September 24, 1992–January 12, 1993, pp. 65 (ill.), 67–69, 182, 236 (ill.), 237, 238–39 (ill.), 240, 267 (ill.), 294, pl. 193, fig. 38, as Bathers by a River, Femmes à la rivière (Baigneuses; Jeunes filles au bain).

Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, New York, Museum of Modern Art, Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-1917, 20 March - 6 June 2010, 18 July - 11 October 2010, cat. 54.

Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Gauguin, Cezanne, Matisse: Visions of Arcadia. June 20- September 3, 2012. fig. 172.

Publication History

Matisse, Henri and Charles Estienne, “Des tendances de la peinture moderne Entreiten avec M. Henri-Matisse,” Les nouvelles, 12 (April 1909).

Stein, Gertrude, Camera Work, special number (August 1912).

Coburn, Alvin L., Men of Mark (1913).
Rey, Robert, “Henri Matisse,” L’Opinion, journal de la semaine, 10 January 1914.

Salto, Axel. Klingen (April 1918).

Ozenfant, Amédée and Charles-Edouard Jeanneret (Le Courbusier), “Recherches,” L’Esprit nouveau, no. 22, (n.d.), as La Danse.

Paris, Galerie Paul Guillaume, 1926.

Bonmariage, Sylvain, “Henri Matisse et la peinture pure,” Cahiers d’art, no. 9 (1926): pp. 239 (ill.)–241, as Jeunes filles au bain.

Fels, Florant, Henri-Matisse (Paris: Éditions des “Croniques de Jour,” 1929): plate 10, as Femmes au ruisseau, 1917.

Fry, Roger, Henri-Matisse, Éditions des chroniques du jour, Paris (London: A. Zwemmer, 1930): n.p. (ill.), plate 10, as Women by a Stream, 1917.

Jedlicka, Gotthard, Henri Matisse (Paris: Editions Chroniques du Jour, 1930), n.p. (ill.), plate 10, as Frauen am Bach.

Blanche, Jacques-Émile, Les arts plastiques, (Paris: Éditions de France, 1931), pp. 247–48, as Demoiselles à la riviére.

Einstein, Carl, Die Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts (Berlin: Propyläen-Verlag, 1931): p. 241 (ill.), as Frauen am Bach, 1917, pp. 27–38, 241 (fig.).

Zervos, Christian, “Notes sur la formation et le développement de l’oeuvre de Henri-Matisse,” Cahiers d’art, nos. 5-6 (1931): pp. 229-52.

McBride, Henry. “Matisse in America,” Cahiers d’art, nos. 5-6 (1931): fig. 62 (ill.), as Jeunes filles au bain.
Zervos, Christian, Histoire de l’art contemporain (Paris: Éditions “Cahiers d’Art,” 1938): pp. 164 and 165 (ill.), as Jeune filles au bain.

Read, Herbert, “Modern Art and French Decadence,” The Studio, CXXIV, no. 597 (December 1942): p. 179 (ill.), as Les jeune filles a la riviere.

Flanner, Janet, “King of the Wild Beasts, I,” The New Yorker (December 22, 1951): pp. 30–46.

Flanner, Janet, “King of the Wild Beasts, II,” The New Yorker (December 29, 1951): pp. 26–49.

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Henri Matisse: Retrospective Exhibition of Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1948), pp. 39, cat. 43 (ill.), as Girls Bathing (Au bord de la rivière).

Rey, Robert, Autour de 1900 (Paris: Galerie Charpentier, 1950), no. 120, n.p. (ill.), as Jeune filles a la rivière.

Barr, Alfred H. Matisse: His Art and His Public (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1951), pp. 181, 183, 190, 408 (ill.), and 409, as Bathers by a River, Women at a Spring, Baigneuses..

Museum of Modern Art, Henri Matisse exh. cat. (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1952 pp. 6, 10, cat. 47, as Bathers by a River (Women at a Spring).

Greenberg, Clement, Henri Matisse (New York; Harry N. Abrams Inc., in association with Pocket Books, Inc., 1953), plate 18.

Diehl, Gaston. Henri Matisse (Paris: Éditions Pierre Tisné, 1954): pp. 60, 66-67, 79, 141, 154, plate 74 (ill.), as Les demoiselles a la rivière.

Lassaigne, Jacques, trans. by Stuart Gilbert, Matisse: Biographical and Critical Study (Geneva; Editions d’Art Albert Skira, 1959), p. 86, as Bathers by a River, 1916–1917.

Art Institute of Chicago, Paintings in The Art Institute of Chicago: A Catalogue of the Picture Collection (Art Institute of Chicago, 1961), pp. 304-5, as Bathers by a River (Women at a Spring).

Hamilton, George Heard, Painting and Sculpture in Europe: 1880-1940 (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1967), p. 296, pl. 56 (ill.).

Instituto de Arte de Chicago (El Mundo de los Museos) (New York: Picadilly Press and News Services International Corporation, 1967), pp. 13 (ill.), 29 (ill.), 70 (ill.), 72, fig. 1, as Bañistas en el rio.

Okamoto, Kenjiro, “Bonnard/Matisse” L’Art du Monde, 16 (Japan 1968), no. 46.

Russell, John. The World of Matisse 1869-1954 (Time-Life Books, 1969), p. 90 (ill.).

Lazzaro, San, “Hommage a Henri Matisse,” Xxe siècle (Paris: SPADEM, 1970), p. 66 (ill.), as Jeunes femmes à la rivière.

Maxon, John, The Art Institute of Chicago (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1970), pp. 117 (ill.), 118, 283.

Schneider, Pierre and Tamara Préaud, Henri Matisse: Exposition du centenaire exh. cat. (Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 1970), pp. 40 (ill.) and 76, as Femmes à la rivière.

Aragon, Louis, Henri Matisse, Roman (Éditions Gallimard, 1971), pp. 404, 407,408–09 (ill.), 853, as Les demoiselles á la rivière.

Elsen, Albert E. , The Sculpture of Henri Matisse (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1971), pp. 190, 191 (ill.), 192, 220 n. 107, fig. 251.

Flam, Jack D., “Matisse’s Backs and the Development of His Painting,” Art Journal, 30 (Summer 1971), pp. 352-61, fig. 11.

Giraudy, Danièle, “Correspondence Henri Matisse—Charles Camoin,” Revue de l’art 12 (1971), pp. 7–34, as des Baigneuses.

Luzi, Mario and Massimo Carrà, L’opera di Matisse dalla rivolta ‘fauve’ all’intimismo, 1904–1928 (Milan: Rizzoli Editore, 1971), p. 96 (ill.), fig. 249, as Ragazze al fiume (Bagnanti).

Greenberg, Clement, “Influences of Matisse,” in Henri Matisse exh. cat. (New York: Acquavella Galleries, 1973), n.p. (ill.).

Jacobus, John, Henri Matisse (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1973), pp. 146, plate 31.

Kostenevich, Albert, “La Danse and La Musique by Henri Matisse: A New Interpretation,” Apollo C, no. 154 (ns 100) (December 1974): 504-13.

Neff, John Hallmark. “Matisse and Decoration, 1906-14: Studies of the Ceramics and the Commissions for Paintings and Stained Glass,” Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard University, 1974.

Trapp, Frank Andersen, “Form and Symbol in the Art of Matisse,” Arts Magazine 49, no. 9 (May 1975): 56-81.

Lyons, Lisa, “Matisse Work: 1914-17,” Arts Magazine 49, no. 9 (May 1975): 74-76.

Kramer, Hilton, “Rediscovering the Genius of Matisse,” The New York Times (Sunday, July 27, 1975), p. D 21.

Neff, John Hallmark, “Matisse and Decoration: The Shchukin Panels,” Art in America 63, no. 4 (July/August 1975), pp. 38–48 (ill. pp. 46 and 47), figs. 13 and 16.

Rose, Barbara, American Art Since 1900 (New York: Praeger, 1975), p. 124.

Elderfield, John, Matisse in the Collection of The Museum of Modern Art (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1978), pp. 60, 188 (ill.), 189, n. 101, fig. 39.

Elderfield, John, The Cut-Outs of Henri Matisse (New York: George Braziller, 1978), pp. 32–34 (ill.), fig. 24.
Feldstein, Janice J., ed., The Art Institute of Chicago: 100 Masterpieces (Art Institute of Chicago, 1978), pp. 136-7 (ill.).

Golding, John, Matisse and Cubism (University of Glasgow Press, 1978), p. 18, as Baigneuses.

Gowing, Lawrence, Matisse (Thames and Hudson, 1979), p. 137 (ill.), fig. 121, as Baigneuses.
Baumann, Felix, Margit Hahnloser-Ingold, and Klaus Schrenk, Henri Matisse exh. cat. (Kunsthaus Zurich, 1982), p. 68 (ill.), fig. 51, as Les demoiselles à la rivière.

Mezzatesta, Michael P., Henri Matisse: Sculptor/Painter exh. cat. (Fort Worth, Tex.: Kimbell Art Museum, 1984), pp. 97 (ill.)., 102, 103 (ill.), fig. 64 and 68.

Monod-Fontaine, Isabelle, The Sculpture of Henri Matisse (London: Thames and Hudson, 1984), p. 23 (ill.), fig. 29.

Schneider, Pierre, trans. by Michael Taylor and Bridget Stevens Romer, Matisse (New York: Rizzoli, 1984), 183, 284, 289 (ill.), 303, 381, 393, 469, 472-73, 489,-90, 541, 552, 620, 622, and 629.

Watkins, Nicholas, Matisse (Oxford: Phaidon, 1984), pp. 43, 93, 129 (ill.), 133–135, 138–139, 143, pl. 112.

Guichard-Meili, Jean, Matisse (Paris: Editions Aimery Somogy, 1986), pp. 37, 129, 131 (ill.), as Les Demoiselles à la rivière.

Flam, Jack, Matisse: The Man and His Art, 1869-1918 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1986), p. 8, 249, 257, 261, 265, 301, 365-71, 405, 408, 414-17, 419, 422-23, fig. 364 and 420.

Guillaud, Jacqueline and Maurice Guillaud, Matisse: Rhythm and Line (New York: Guillaud Editions, 1987), p. 71, cat 77 (ill.).

Flam, Jack, ed., Henri Matisse: A Retrospective (New York: Hugh Lauter Levin Associates, 1988), p. 184 (ill.), pl. 55.

Wood, James N., Master Paintings in the Art Institute of Chicago (Art Institute of Chicago, 1988), pp. 120 (ill.), 167.

Monod-Fontaine, Isabelle, Oeuvres de Henri Matisse exh. cat. (Centre Georges Pompidou, 1989), pp. 9, 330 (ill.), fig. a, as Les demoiselles à la rivière.

Russell, John, “Critic’s Notebook: A Matisse Misfit Receives Its Due,” The New York Times (Wednesday, January 18, 1989), p. 16.

Bock, Catherine C., “Henri Matisse’s Bathers by a River,” The Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 16, 1 (1990): 44-55, 92–93, ill. cover and p. 44, fig. 1.

Bernier, Rosamond, Matisse, Picasso and Miró as I Knew Them (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1991), p. 86 (ill.)
Néret, Giles, Matisse (Konecky and Konecky, 1991), pp. 80 (ill.), 269.

Elderfield, John, Henri Matisse, A Retrospective exh. cat. (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1992) pp. 65 (ill.), 67–69, 182, 236 (ill.), 237, 238–39 (ill.), 240, 267 (ill.), 294, pl. 193, fig. 38, as Bathers by a River, Femmes à la rivière (Baigneuses; Jeunes filles au bain).

Vogel, Carol, “Diplomacy and Detective Work produce a Blockbuster,” The New York Times (Thursday, September 17, 1992), pp. B1, B6.

Wilson, Sarah, Matisse (New York: Rizzoli, 1992), pp. 29, 78, 79 (ill.), 127, plate 87, as Bathers by a Stream.

Girard, Xavier, Matisse: The Wonder of Color (Harry N. Abrams, 1993), pp. 80 (ill.), 81 (ill.), 82–3 (ill.).

Herrera, Hayden, Matisse: A Portrait (Harcourt Brace and Company, 1993), p. 111 (ill.).

Kostenevich, Albert G., and Natalia Sémionova, Matisse et la Russie (Flammarion, 1993), pp. 106, 107 (ill.), as Les demoiselles a la rivière.

Burlingham, Cynthia, and Elizabeth Shepherd, eds., In the Sculptor’s Landscape: Celebrating Twenty-five Years of the Franklin D. Murphy Sculpture Garden exh. cat. (University of California Los Angeles, 1993), pp. 79, 81 (ill., fig. 70).

Flam, Jack, Matisse: The Dance (Washington, D.C.: National Gallery of Art, 1993).

Fourcade, Dominique and Isabelle Monod-Fontaine, Henri Matisse, 1904-1917 (Paris: Editions du Centre Georges Pompidou, 1993), pp. 50, 57, 61, and 108.
Giraudon, Colette, Paul Guillaume et les peintres du XXe siècle: De l’art nègre à l’avant-garde (La Bibliotheque des arts, 1993), pp. 106 (ill.), 108, 133.

Hamilton, George Heard, Painting and Sculpture in Europe 1880–1940 (Yale University Press, 1993), pp. 173, 174 (ill.), fig. 90.

Autour d’un chef-d’oeuvre de Matisse: les trois versions de la danse Barnes (1930–1933), exh. cat. (Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, 1994), pp. 50 (ill.), 52, fig. 25, as Femmes à la riviére.

Carrier, David, “You, too, are in Arcadia: The Place of the Spectator in Matisse’s Triptych,” Word and Image: A Journal of Verbal Visual Enquiry (1994).

Flam, Jack, ed., Matisse; A Retrospective (Southport, Conn., Hugh Lauter Levin Associates, Inc., 1994).

Liessegang, Susanne, Henri Matisse: Gegenstand und Bildrealität, dargestellt an Beispielen der Malerei zwischen 1908-1918 (Koln: Verlag Josef Eul, 1994), p. 171 (ill.).

Milner, Frank, Henri Matisse (London: Bison Books, Ltd., 1994), pp. 83, 84–5 (ill.).

Dauberville, Guy-Patrice and Michel Dauberville, Matisse: Henri Matisse chez Bernheim-Jeune (Editions Bernheim-Jeune, 1995), pp. 568–569 (ill.), 1434, cat. 166, as Trois personnages debout.

Flam, Jack, Matisse on Art (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), pp. 200 (ill.), 205, 268, n. 6, 269, n. 5, 300, n. 16, fig. 36.

Carrier, David, High Art, Charles Baudelaire and the Origins of Modernist Paintings (State Park, Pa.: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1996), pp. 1128, 29 (ill.), 130–135, fig. 13, as Bathers by a Stream.
Cézanne aujourd’hui: actes du colloque organisé par le Musée d’Orsay 29 et 30 Novembre 1995 (Paris: Musée d’Orsay, 1997).

Sylvester, David “Finding the Matisse in Bacon,” TATE: The Art Magazine , no. 10 (winter 1996), pp.42–7.

Wood, James N. and Teri J. Edelstein, The Art Institute of Chicago: Twentieth-Century Painting and Sculpture (Art Institute of Chicago, 1996), pp. 40 (ill.), 159.

Jenkins, David Fraser, “Baigneuses and demoiselles: ‘bathers’ in Cézanne, Picasso and Matisse,” Apollo 145, no. 421 (1997), pp. 39–44.

Matisse, Henri, Matisse: La révélation m’est venue de l’Orient exh. cat. (Florence: Artificio, 1997), p. 178 (ill.), as Ragazze al fiume.

Bois, Yve-Alain, Matisse and Picasso (Paris: Flammarion, 1998), pp. 29, 37, 41, 42 (ill.), 245, n. 101, fig. 24, 246, n. 125.

Golding, John, Caro at the National Gallery: Sculpture from Painting (London: National Gallery, 1998)
Schaffner, Ingrid, The Essential Henri Matisse (New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1998), p. 87 (ill.).

Delpont, Éric, ed., Le Maroc de Matisse exh. cat. (Institut du monde arabe/Éditions Gallimard, 1999) pp. 174 (ill.), 175, fig. 63, as Demoiselles à la rivière.

Labrusse, Rémi, Matisse: La condition de l’image (Gallimard, 1999), pp. 244, 245 (ill.), fig. 81, as Femmes à la rivière, (Baigneuses), (Demoiselles à la rivière), (Jeunes Filles au bain).

Wood, James N. and Debra N. Mancoff, Treasures from the Art Onstitute of Chicago (Art Institute of Chicago, 2000), pp. 227, 212 (ill.).

Klein, John, Matisse Portraits (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), p. 175, as Bathers by a Stream.

Cowling, Elizabeth, et. al., Matisse Picasso exh. cat. (Tate Publishing, 2002), pp. 21 (ill.), 256, 374, fig. 12.
Ayrault, Jean-Marc, et. al., Matisse: La période niçoise, 1917–1929 exh. cat. (Paris: Réunion des Musées Nationaux, 2003), p. 15 (ill.).

Flam, Jack, Matisse and Picasso: The Story of Their Rivalry and Friendship (Cambridge, Mass.: Westview Press, 2003), pp. 110-11 (ill.), 140-41, fig. 6.9.

Tosatto, Guy, Matisse Picasso 1920 : 12 chefs-d'œuvre du Musée de l'Orangeriei exh. cat. (Musée de Grenoble, 2003), p. 15 (ill.), as Les Demoiselles à la riviére.

Tomkins, Calvin, “At the Museums: A Picasso Face-Lift,” The New Yorker (May 24, 2004), pp. 32, 35.

Stephanie D'Alessandro and John Elderfield, "Matisse, 1913-1917, and the Methods of Modern Construction," in Matisse: Radical Invention 1913-1917. Exh. cat. (Art Institute of Chicago, 2010), p. 21-29, fig. 4, fig. 6-9.

Stephanie D'Alessandro, Matisse: Radical Invention 1913-1917. Exh. cat. (Art Institute of Chicago, 2010), p. 346-349, p. 350-352, p. 355, cat. 54.

Stephanie D’Alessandro, “Re-Visioning Arcadia: Henri Matisse’s Bathers by the River,” Gauguin, Cézanne, Matisse: Visions of Arcadia. Exh. cat. (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2012), p. xiii-xiv, p. 1, p. 3, p. 7, p. 181-192, p. 225, fig. 172.

Ownership History

Purchased from the artist by Galerie Paul Guillaume, Paris, September 1926 (according to September 14, 1926 letter from Matisse to his wife, Amelie Matisse in archives Matisse, Paris, as cited in Spurling 2006, pp. 484–5, no. 1030); by descent to his wife, Juliette “Domenica” Lacaze (later Mme. Jean Walter), Paris, 1934–summer 1951; sold to Henry and Rose Pearlman, New York, summer 1951–1953 [letter of December 4, 1975 from Rose Pearlman in curatorial file]; acquired through exchange by the Art Institute, 1953.