Second State: Bathers by a River
Bathers X-radiograph

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Second state,
fall 1909–spring 1910

The second state of Bathers by a River includes revisions related to Dance (II) and Music: Matisse repositioned the figure to the left of the stream, raising her to above the midpoint of the canvas and turning her toward the viewer. He shifted the figure on the right of the waterfall, lifting her head and straightening her back. The artist adjusted the pose of the fourth figure as well, although the exact changes are difficult to extract from the tangle of revisions visible in the X-radiograph. It is certain, however, that Matisse tightened her pose and strengthened her limbs in response to the stiffer, more muscular figures of Dance (II). Cross sections demonstrate a change to a palette with richer tones.

Dance (II), summer - fall 1910.

Dance (II), summer – fall 1910. Oil on canvas. The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg.

Dance (II) and Music were the focus of much of Matisse’s efforts from the fall of 1909 through the fall of 1910. The artist worked exhaustively on these large panels in tandem with Bathers by a River. Perhaps as a consequence, he altered the palette of Bathers by a River to a brilliant vermillion, rich blue, and deep green, although physical examination has not confirmed that he did so to the degree of the completed Dance (II) and Music.

Music, winter - fall 1910

Music, winter – fall 1910. Oil on canvas. The State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg.

Matisse worked and reworked the figures of Music, moving them up and down within the composition and reorienting them to face the viewer. Some elements of the second state of Bathers by a River, visible on the painting’s surface in raking light, correspond to Music. For instance, near the middle left, the artist revised the second bather’s right foot in a similar, thickly outlined style that has a heavier effect.

Matisse: Radical Invention 1913-1917
Bathers by a River
Back: 1908-09, 1911(?)-13, 1913-16, c. 1931
A Great French Painter, Henri Matisse: A film from 1946
Art Institute of Chicago
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