Bathers by the River – Henri Matisse, 1916
Gray. Matisse gray. For an artist who is known for his extravagant, vivid and uncompromising use of color, it is his gray palette that always attracts and punctuates my interest in Matisse’s painting. There is no mythology to Matisse gray, no academic treatise or “gray period” as far as I know but there is a raison d’etre that I have come to realize manifesting in his mid-teen paintings, culminating in; Portrait of Mme. Matisse, the Moroccan’s, the Piano Lesson and Bathers by the River. The muted gray colors could reference the harsh and stripped down war years of WWI, the influential Cubists’ with their partiality for gray, ochres and neutrals – a period that Matisse circled but did not join, Moroccan architecture (stone) where he traveled during this time or in the case of “Bathers,” a coming of age reference. More to come regarding this painting and Matisse Gray.
Chicago Institute of Art, Sep. 2017