Gift of M. A. Wertheimer from the collection of his late wife, Annetta Salz Wertheimer, 1934.77
Matisse came to painting later in life than his precocious rival, Picasso, and was introduced to Impressionism by the languorous later works of Pierre Renoir. The jarring juxtaposition of colors that distinguished Matisse’s paintings beginning in 1900 led to his being branded a Fauve (wild beast), a label that came to describe an artistic movement. Matisse retreated to a more restricted palette around 1910, but in this large still life, executed after the outbreak of World War I, we witness a return to the bold decorative sensibility and high-keyed color that would henceforth characterize Matisse’s modern vision. Matisse likened the best painting to a good armchair, which provides relaxation from physical fatigue. This resolutely bourgeois conception of art’s function is well served by this elegantly informal subject: an arrangement of flowers—probably gathered in the artist’s garden in the suburbs of Paris—positioned against a loosely brushed grey ground.