Three Bathers (1879-82) | Paul Cézanne
Oil on Canvas | 21 7/16 in. x 20 5/16 in.
Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris
In 1899, Henri Matisse bought Paul Cézanne's Three Bathers from Paris art dealer, Ambroise Vollard who, in turn, had acquired it directly from Cézanne. Matisse could ill afford to spend money on other artists' works at the time, but was so moved by this piece that he signed a promissory note to Vollard and paid this debt off in installments.
Matisse wrote in a letter when he donated the painting to the Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris in 1936:
"In the thirty-seven years I have owned this canvas, I have come to know it quite well, though not entirely, I hope; it has sustained me morally in the critical moments of my venture as an artist; I have drawn from it my faith and my perseverance; for this reason, allow me to request that it be placed so that it may be seen to its best advantage ... I know that I do not have to tell you this, but nevertheless think it is my duty to tell you so; please accept these remarks as the excusable testimony of my admiration for this work which has grown increasingly greater ever since I have owned it."
Matisse worked on his own Bathers by a River over the course of eight years. The genius of Matisse lies in the evolution of his masterpiece from its inception as two decorative pastoral panels commissioned by a wealthy Russian collector for his home to the final Cubist-inspired composition. The artist considered this painting to be one of the five most pivotal works of his career.
|Bathers by a River (1909–1910, 1913, and 1916–1917) | Henri Matisse|
Oil on canvas | 102 1/2 in. x 154 3/16 in.
The Art Institute of Chicago