Henri Matisse's La Musique (1939)

La Musique is an oil on canvas made by Henri Matisse in 1939 and housed at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo.

A true conductor's work

The painting depicts two seated women in complementary poses highlighting the painter's ability to orchestrate both highly ornamental motifs and vivid pigments, while managing to maintain balance and simplicity. 

Apparently simple and synthetic, the realization of La Musique (1939) is in truth the result of a long creative process during which Henri Matisse kept producing intermediate stages before he managed to bind the composition and clarify the different geometric structures.

All the complexity of the painting, he believed, lay in the difficulty of harmonizing the two main figures without their respective voluminous forms dominating the overall image. In addition, it was particularly difficult to balance the different shapes repeated in the painting, the vertical and horizontal lines, the curves, and the placement of colors. 

Henri Matisse, La Musique (1939), Albright-Knox Art Gallery - Buffalo (Etats-Unis) © Succession H. Matisse.

The search for the perfect balance

If Matisse managed to find the perfect balance, it is because he had to put several means in place in the composition.

First, he created a diagonal line starting from the legs of the figure on the left and continuing to the guitar, in which the colors of the dress and legs of the woman on the left are repeated.

The right arms of both figures are in the same pose; the left arm of one figure is parallel to the right leg of her companion; and the hairstyles and facial features of both women are similar.

If it looks easy visually, it is because the painter has succeeded in his wager : reality, unity and rhythm meet on the canvas where each element is placed with great care.

Discover more about Henri Matisse's close connection to music in our article dedicated to one of the major themes of his personal life and life as an artist

A source of inspiration even today

A true pictorial masterpiece, La Musique (1939) continues to inspire contemporary creation. It is for this, as well as for the central role that music had in the artist's life, that Maison Matisse has chosen to dedicate its first permanent collection to it, within which hand-painted ceramic pieces and other decorative objects offer a joyful, original, and high-character interpretation of this extraordinary painting.

Thus, tableware, furniture, wallpaper and decorative objects are adorned with the motifs present in the painting and decline a complete, colorful and joyful decorative universe. Each product has a name closely related to the theme of music : Octave, Harmony, Piccolo, Viola, and offers a personal interpretation of the painting

Discover the entire collection as well as the overall inspiration of one of the French master's most beautiful paintings.