Taste of culture
Learn and enjoy: art, music and words enable us to discover where we come from, so we can decide where we’re going.
Dance (1910), by Henri Matisse, is an enormous canvas painted by the artist at the request of a Russian millionaire who wanted to decorate the staircase in his mansion.
Of particular interest is how the piece simplifies forms and saturates colours, because one of Matisse’s characteristic traits is the free use of colour, in addition to his expressive dynamism. We should also remember that he was one of the visible leaders of Fauvism.
Fauvism is an avant-garde artistic movement. The term was coined in 1905 in the Autumn Salon in Paris by the art critic Louis Vauxcelles and derived from the French word fauve, which means ‘beast’. As has occurred on many other occasions, a negative critique ended up becoming the name of a group of artists who, in this case, employed colour in a non-naturalistic way in an attempt to create a violent impression and a new, modern style.
“Dance is a fusion of the rhythm and the happiness that is easily transmitted between people”
Matisse paints one of his fetishes: the return of the mythical Golden Age, in which human beings were happy dancing and singing without a care in the world. This work was paired with another, entitled Music, which encountered harsh criticism for its colourist, exalted violence.
2. Russian Revolution
The red bodies, naked and with crooked necks and arms raised, suggest a moment of extasy and liberation. The Russian businessman and art collector Sergei Shchukin, a friend of Matisse’s, who commissioned this work, collected only radical, “rejected” art. Some say Shchukin foresaw the cataclysm that was yet to come, namely the 1917 Russian Revolution.
3. Freedom of expression
Seeing these frenzied, frenetic bodies, it comes as no surprise that Matisse and his colleagues found inspiration in the philosophical work of Nietzsche, who defended an affirmation of life.
4. The influence of Gauguin
All of this painting consists in areas of pure colours, with no brushstrokes, no shading… Gaugin’s influence in this work is obvious. The interest in Primitivism and the societies of Oceania and Africa were a point in common of both artists.
5. “Decorative panel”
Did you know that Matisse sent this painting to the Autumn Salon under the title Decorative Panel? It was an act of sarcasm that infuriated art critics. In those years, France was trying to recover from the shock caused by the clash between the avant-garde and classical art.
6. «Plafó decoratiu»
Sabíeu que Matisse va enviar aquesta obra al Saló anomenant-la plafó decoratiu? Fou tot un acte sarcàstic que va enfurir els membre de la crítica. Durant aquells anys, França tenia el propòsit de recuperar-se del xoc que havien suposat les avantguardes sobre l’art clàssic.