2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA 19130 United States
In 1930, Dr. Albert Barnes commissioned a large mural from Henri Matisse for the Main Gallery of his foundation. The making of The Dance marked a turning point in the artist’s career. Simply put, it led to a creative reboot. Matisse abandoned the conservative style he adopted in the 1920s and began bold new experiments in color and materials. In this talk, art scholar Yve-Alain Bois traces the history of the monumental commission and its impact on Matisse. He delves into the challenges of the project, including its immense scale; in a letter to Dr. Barnes, Matisse wrote that he had to “find a way to extend my legs and arms” for the “superhuman” dimensions. The artist solved the problem with a long drawing stick and paper cutouts—both of which he returned to in a frenzy of creative output at the end of the 1940s. Bois will also discuss the recently recovered documents (letters, diagrams, technical notes, and more) that illustrate a fuller picture of Matisse’s work on The Dance, including the devastating mistake that set the artist back by more than a year. More information here.