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Title: Dance (II)

Artist : Henri Matisse

Size: 260 x 391 cm

Medium: Oil on canvas

In 1908, Russian collector Sergey Shchukin commissioned Henri Matisse three large panels to represent dance, music and swimming. The latter has not been executed, but "Music" and especially "The Dance" was a declaration of the genius of Henri Matisse. Shchukin planned to decorate the hall of his Moscow mansion with these paintings. To Matisse it became the first major commission, so could finally say goodbye to the lack of funds.

A source of inspiration for Henri Matisse was the performance of Isadora Duncan, who broke with the official ballet school and filled dance with passion, emotion and fury. Matisse`s visit to the cabaret "Moulin de La Galette" with Farandole (Provenšal folk dance) on stage, also contributed to the creation of the panel.

Technical means were kept to a minimum in this work, Henri Matisse was extremely laconic: the azure sky, emerald green of the hill, the flaming bodies. The human figures are generalized, we can paraphrase the artist`s famous quote "I do not paint women, I paint pictures" to see that Matisse does not paint the dancers here, he paints the dance. The naked bodies have something primitive and pristine in them. The dance appears as a grand pattern of existence, it overlapped the canvas to become an archetype, the myth of the dance. In front of us circling. With their hands linked, the five figures are rotating in a frenzied dance. They form a vicious circle charged with energy that is, seemingly, about to spark the canvas.

The paintings were exhibited at the Salon in 1911 and caused a stir. Furious and passionate nudity of the dancers, whose bodies merged in the ecstasy of dance, angered fans of classical beauties reclining on the sofas surrounded by the chubby putti. Nudity was not unusual, but the picture had more than just bodies in it: pure ecstasy, passion and sex splashed on the audience from this three-color painting with dancing figures. Shchukin had to ask Matisse to paint over some "shame". However. It could not hold back the emotional and sensual intensity of the painting.

Matisse rejected the vagueness of the Impressionists. Here is how he described his work on the paintings for Shchukin: "We are committed to clarity, simplifying ideas. Integrity is our only ideal... We are talking about how to learn and, perhaps, to learn to paint in lines anew".

A thrilling, exciting and alluring "Dance" by Henri Matisse was to be placed on the ground floor of Shchukin`s Moscow mansion. "Music" was supposed to balance the mood of the guest on the second floor with its calm, meditative, self-absorbed vibes. The same three colors, the same five figures are depicted no longer on the hill, but on the plain, they do not merge, but appear as individual characters, absorbed into themselves and the music. On the third floor, the collector wanted to put the panel depicting leisure, swimming and relaxing.

In conclusion, the painting of four nudes dancing in the air is a captivating and evocative work of art that celebrates the beauty and freedom of the human form. The artist has masterfully captured the essence of movement and expression, creating a scene that is at once sensual, dynamic, and transcendent. This painting serves as a testament to the enduring power of art to capture the essence of the human experience, inviting the viewer to revel in the joy and vitality of the dancers as they leap and twirl through the air.