In conjunction with the exhibition Matisse: In Search of True Painting—on view December 4, 2012, through March 17, 2013—Curator Rebecca Rabinow discusses Matisse's tendency to depict his own studio and the works of art displayed within.
During the summer of 1912, the wealthy Russian collector Sergei Shchukin visited Matisse at his home in Issy-les-Moulineaux, just outside of Paris. Shchukin's request for a triptych may have inspired Matisse to modify the composition of Nasturtiums with the Painting "Dance" I when he repeated it on a second canvas.
Images in order of appearance:
Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954). Nasturtiums with the Painting "Dance" I, 1912. Oil on canvas; 75 1/2 x 45 3/8 in. (191.8 x 115.3 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Bequest of Scofield Thayer, 1982 (1984.433.16)
Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954). Nasturtiums with the Painting "Dance " II, 1912. Oil on canvas; 76 x 44 7/8 in. (193 x 114 cm). The State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow
Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954). The Pink Studio, 1911. Oil on canvas; 70 5/8 x 87 in. (179.5 x 221 cm). The State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow
Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954). Dance I, 1909. Oil on canvas; 8' 6 1/2" x 12' 9 1/2" (259.7 x 390.1 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Gift of Nelson A. Rockefeller in honor of Alfred H. Barr, Jr.
Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954). The Conversation, ca. 1908–1912. Oil on canvas; 69 5/8 x 85 3/8 in. (177 x 217 cm). The State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg
Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954). Corner of the Artist's Studio, 1912. Oil on canvas; 75 3/8 x 44 7/8 in. (191.5 x 114 cm). The State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow
Room in the Trubetskoy Palace, residence of Sergei Shchukin, Moscow, ca. 1914. Archives Matisse, Paris
© 2012 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, for all works of the artist
Rebecca Rabinow: Matisse always depicted his own work. He was constantly painting his own art.
After Matisse had been traveling, he came back to his home in Paris and was inspired to paint all sorts of scenes showing the interior of the studio. And that's what Nasturtiums with the Painting "Dance" I shows. What you're looking at—and it's sometimes a hard composition to understand—is the painting Dance I propped against his wall. And in front of it, he's arranged his tripod sculpture stand with a vase of nasturtiums on top of it, and then in the left foreground, a wooden chair.
That summer, one of Matisse's great patrons, Sergei Shchukin, came to visit Matisse. He had been asking Matisse to create a triptych for his home. When Shchukin came, he saw a painting called The Conversation, which shows Matisse standing at a window; his wife is sitting in a robe, on the right. Shchukin loved this painting. He bought it on the spot. Matisse also showed Shchukin some of the paintings of his studio. And Shchukin bought the Corner of the Studio.
At this moment, Matisse, and perhaps Shchukin, decided that they were going to cobble together a triptych out of pictures that Matisse had already begun. Matisse took Nasturiums with the Painting "Dance" I and repainted it to add a diagonal to it. And so that, I think, accounts for how he changed this composition. It's exactly the same setup, but now Matisse has taken a few steps to the right, so that everything shoots off at a diagonal.
So he took a canvas the same size, repainted it with this new composition, and in more saturated colors that work better with the other two that Shchukin had already picked. Eventually, these pictures made their way to Moscow and were installed at the far end of Shchukin's dining room. It's a room full of very saturated canvases by Gauguin. And so Matisse's paintings—hung together, taking up that entire wall at the end—glow like stained glass.