MoMA
Henri Matisse. The Back (III). Issy-les-Moulineaux, by May 13, 1913 - early fall 1916
Henri Matisse

The Back (III)

Issy-les-Moulineaux, by May 13, 1913 - early fall 1916
On view
Medium
Bronze
Dimensions
6' 2 1/2" x 44" x 6" (189.2 x 112.4 x 15.2 cm)
Credit
Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund
Object number
5.1952
Copyright
© 2015 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

"Fit your parts into one another and build up your figure as a carpenter does a house. Everything must be constructed—built up of parts that make a unit; a tree like a human body, a human body like a cathedral." So Matisse believed the sculptor should proceed, and the credo can be sensed in this work and throughout the group of four relief sculptures to which it belongs, with its progressive stability and simplicity. Matisse did not conceive The Backs as a series, but occasionally returned to the theme over the years. Even so, these reliefs—his largest sculptures—present a coherent progress, from a relatively detailed naturalism toward a near-abstract monumentality.

This work is the third in the series, and it is more vertical and less sinuous than its precursors. The first work in the series (1909) has a dynamic tension, and an arabesque line flows through it; in the second (1913), the body is more erect, less fluid. The left leg has become a thick pillar; making the figure more solid. The third work leads to the fourth (1931), where Matisse suppresses physical detail, making the contours more fluid, the surface more homogeneous. But if he surrenders expressiveness in the sculpture's parts, he regains it in the symmetrical harmony of the work as a whole.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 78
Provenance information
Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchased from Pierre Matisse, 1952

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In order to effectively service requests for images, The Museum of Modern Art entrusts the licensing of images of works of art in its collections to the agencies Scala Archives and Art Resource. As MoMA’s representatives, these agencies supply high-resolution digital image files provided to them directly by the Museum's imaging studios.

All requests to reproduce works of art from MoMA's collection within North America (Canada, U.S., Mexico) should be addressed directly to Art Resource at 536 Broadway, New York, New York 10012. Telephone (212) 505-8700; fax (212) 505-2053; requests@artres.com; artres.com. Requests from all other geographical locations should be addressed directly to Scala Group S.p.A., 62, via Chiantigiana, 50012 Bagno a Ripoli/Firenze, Italy. Telephone 39 055 6233 200; fax 39 055 641124; firenze@scalarchives.com; scalarchives.com.

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Related links:
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