Matisse and Earthly Bliss

A painting of many nude figures outdoors. Some stand, while others crouch or recline. In the background, several hold hands, forming a circle. In some cases, the scale of the figures seems inconsistent with their positioning in space. The work is characterized by bold colors, many of which are not naturalistic.

Henri Matisse, Le Bonheur de vivre (The Joy of Life), between October 1905 and March 1906. Oil on canvas. Barnes Collection, Philadelphia, BF719. © 2024 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Lecture Two

Henri Matisse imagined an ideal kind of painting, one that had classical precedents and would give joy to the artist and his viewers alike. Encouraged by a few American and Russian patrons, and aided by his own production of drawings and sculpture, he created large figural compositions with imaginary settings. 

About the Lecture Series

In this four-part series John Walsh, B.A. 1961, Director Emeritus of the J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles, explores the phases of Matisse’s career. What were the artist’s innovations, and how did he relate to the critics, public, and fellow artists of his day? Each lecture is anchored to an important work, emphasizing close looking. 

Learn more about the series.