Music was a constant part of Henri Matisse’s life and an endless source of enjoyment and inspiration. He played the violin daily, and his dedication to rigorous structure and precise technique carried over to his artistic practice. One of Matisse’s goals was to create paintings that appeared effortless; however, the unity and rhythm he achieved in his compositions did not always come easy. In La Musique, two women seated in complementary poses underscore the artist’s ability to orchestrate ornamental pattern and vivid pigment while maintaining balance and simplicity. Yet, a series of eighteen photographs of the canvas in progress that Matisse took between March 17 and April 18, 1939, reveal his difficulty bringing the two main figures into harmony, so that neither’s voluminous shape dominated the overall image. Only after numerous intermediate steps was he finally able to tie the composition together and clarify its geometric structure.
Label from Matisse and the Art of Jazz, January 20–July 1, 2018