Feminism In Henri Matisse's Bathers By A River

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The female nude, a longstanding western tradition in art is used to express ideas of beauty. It soon became a site to address the immediate changes in the modern industrial world, representing the female nude as a vessel to address the urban modernization of the roles of women. The portrayal of the female nude in Henri Matisse’s Bathers by a River uses the nude to express his frustrations with the Battle of Verdun. Initially, it was conceived in 1909 as a scene of arcadian leisure, but then years later in Morocco, it was transformed into a monumental image of grief and stoicism. His new representation of female bathers stands for an image of national suffering. Henri Matisse’s portrayal of the female nude in Bathers by a River represents his …show more content…
It was originally commissioned for Sergi Shchukin, a Russian collector who bought most of Matisse’s best paintings from 1908-1909. He also commissioned Dance and Music as a set of three pieces for a decorative panel for his home. Matisse created the painting in three separate time frames spanning from 1909-1917. He started the painting in 1909 as a commission for Sergi Schukin, returned to it in 1913, and finally finished the painting in the fall of 1917.1 He worked on this painting for eight years and it is considered by both Matisse and his critics as one of the most pivotal works of his career because of its representation of Matisse’s modern construction and heavy influence of analytic cubism as a way to respond to the effects of WW1. Galerie Paul Guilluame in Paris purchased Bathers by a River in 1926. His wife, Juliette Lacaze sold it to Henry and Rose Pearlmen in the summer 1951 in New York and then it was acquired through exchange by the Art Institute of Chicago in 1953. The painting is 107 years old and is in fairly good condition for its age. There are visible cracks in the paint when viewed closely; however, there are no large patches of missing paint. Bathers by a River consists of many layers of different colored paint, so the visible regions from the cracks may have been a purposeful choice by Matisse, instead of resulting from age. Art historians confirmed that parts of …show more content…
Bathers by a River starts in 1909 as a naturalistic, watercolor of five naked women relaxing.1 This original version was much like the rest of Matisse’s paintings because they expressed pleasure, light, and joy that was common among many Fauvist with the use of saturated colors, pastoral landscapes, and with an emphasis on the simple (Figure 1). This original version was naturalistic and pastoral but changed over time with Matisse’s acceptance of analytic cubism and with the toll of WW1.3 Matisse took no active part in the war, but was deeply disturbed by it.2 In 1914, Matisse wanted to enlist and fight in the war but was rejected because of his heart condition. He then asked about his possible contribution to the effort and was told to do what he does best; he was told to paint.1 Three years from the beginning of the painting, Matisse branched out of his Fauvist style and traded his saturated colors for more prominent geometric forms, while also segmenting the painting into large bands of color that reinforce the geometric figures3 (Figure

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