Related Story: VIEW Related Works by Matisse
From the Closer Look in the Art Institute of Chicago app, available for iOS devices through the iTunes Store.

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Henri Matisse, Bathers by River, March 1909–10, May–November 1913, and early spring 1916–October (?) 1917. Charles H. and Mary F. S. Worcester Collection. © 2014 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Matisse also completed these paintings during the eight years in which he worked and reworked Bathers by a River. Each exemplifies how he experimented with the methods of modern construction.




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Henri Matisse, Dance (I) (Dance [Esquisse]), February–March 1909. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller in honor of Alfred H. Barr, Jr.

Russian businessman Sergei Shchukin was an early collector of Matisse’s paintings and commissioned decorative panels for the stairway of his Moscow home. In their earliest conversations, Matisse and Shchukin agreed on two subjects of for the panels. This painting is an early sketch—or esquisse—for one of the works, on the theme of dance.




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Henri Matisse, Music, winter–fall 1910. The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg.

While Matisse proposed a companion painting of bathers, Shchukin rejected the idea and requested the second panel to be on the theme of music. Already excited by the idea, Matisse started Bathers by a River) anyway and continued to work on it while completing the panels of Dance and Music.




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Henri Matisse, Gray Nude with Bracelet, 1913. Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, Steegmann Collection.

Matisse created this painting concurrently with the fourth state of Bathers by a River. At that time, Bathers lacked much of the color we see today and was done in a palette primarily of grays.




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Henri Matisse, Still Life with Goldfish III, 1914/15. Mr. and Mrs. Robert O. Delaney Fund.

This monotype is one of six on the subject on goldfish that Matisse made in 1914 and 1915. Similar to Bathers by a River, this series of monotypes demonstrates how keenly he examined objects, studying them from different angles and testing details for elimination, as well as his use of black at this time.




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Henri Matisse, The Moroccans, 1915–16. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Samuel A. Marx, 1955. © 2010 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Matisse considered both Bathers by a River and The Moroccans to be among the five most pivotal works of his career.




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Henri Matisse, The Piano Lesson, 1916. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund, 1946. © 2010 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

In this painting, Matisse’s young son Pierre takes a piano lesson. Similar to Bathers by a River, Matisse also scraped down and incised large areas of the composition, dramatically altering the final painting.




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Henri Matisse, Shaft of Sunlight, the Woods of Trivaux, 1917. Private collection.

Also finished in 1917, this landscape is an exploration of abstraction, with large geometric shapes that are reminiscent of Bathers by a River.