Bathers by a River

Painting of four nude women composed of geometric shapes, against patterned background.
© 2018 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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  • Painting of four nude women composed of geometric shapes, against patterned background.

Date:

March 1909/10, May–November 1913, and early spring 1916–October (?) 1917

Artist:

Henri Matisse
French, 1869–1954

About this artwork

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 (both State Hermitage Museum, Saint 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.

On View

Modern Art, Gallery 391

Artist

Henri Matisse

Title

Bathers by a River

Origin

France

Date

1909–1917

Medium

Oil on canvas

Inscriptions

Signed, l.l.: "Henri-Matisse"

Dimensions

102 1/2 × 154 3/16 in. (260 × 392 cm)

Credit Line

Charles H. and Mary F. S. Worcester Collection

Reference Number

1953.158

Copyright

© 2018 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email .

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