A vibrant tipped in art print of Henri Matisse's Music (1939) printed in Japan in 1976. Image is hand tipped in on heavy paper and affixed to chipboard backing for ease in styling, propping, or framing.

Image: 8.75" x 9"

Commentary at time of printing: “Two familiar motifs inherent in the art of Matisse are now distilled with marvelous restraint in another late masterpiece: that of the calming influence of music is here placed in the context of his repeated motif of the 1920s, a pair of female figures in either complementary or parallel attitudes. The female twosome was, in fact, the motif for some of his most splendid drawings of the Nice period. Later, this theme will be transformed once again in the 1947-48 series of women reading, but in the present picture the two women receive their most monumental, hieratic treatment.

As with many of Matisse's major compositions of this period, notably Pink Nude (1935), we possess photographs of progressive stages of this painting made while the artist worked out the problem of its design. In general these series of photographs indicate a progressive, logical, almost classicizing or archaizing process of simplification. He begins with a somewhat picturesque, even agitated series of poses, and gradually draws the whole together through a process of decorative rationalization. The original design of this Music resembled the contrasting poses of The Conservatory (1938), with the figures in even greater opposition. The completed picture rejects this idea in favor of a rather strict parallelism of pose between the two models, a challenging feat since they are so differently clothed. While there is no longer a specific indication of an Ingresque source in this design, as was the case with Woman with a Veil (color-plate 42) or Lady in Blue (1937; fig. 41), it is clear that Matisse's rather personal transformations of Neoclassic design in the immediately preceding period made possible the present strictness and clarity of structure. And now we find, in the solidly outlined women, a suggestive analogy with his monumental nude compositions of the period bracketed by the two versions of Le Luxe (1907) and the original but subsequently overpainted concept of the Bathers by the River (1910-17). Most likely this resemblance with respect to a massive outline was not a conscious procedure with the artist, but rather a spontaneous reintegration of an earlier device into his later style. This is simply one more thread between the past and present that demonstrates the surprising unity of Matisse's career as, over the years, he explored so many different manners.