Curator, Starr Figura: Canvases like this just shocked audiences. The paint is applied in these almost frenzied gestures across the canvas. We might be used to seeing that now, but at that time, people hadn't seen anything like that before.
Matisse and Fénéon had met just a year before this painting was made. And then Fénéon got a job at Gallery Bernheim-Jeune as a dealer. In 1909, Fénéon signed a contract with Matisse. This was huge for Matisse because he had been struggling financially for years.
There was one day in the gallery when a couple came in and they were interested in looking at some of Matisse's paintings. And Matisse was there, and he was very encouraged. But then, the couple left without buying anything and Fénéon actually had discouraged them from buying it. And Matisse was flabbergasted, and said to Fénéon, “Why didn't you sell them a painting?” And Fénéon said, “you wouldn't want your beautiful painting to go and live with those stuffy people.”
Fénéon really believed in the art more than anything else. And it was very important to him that the art be placed somewhere where it would be properly appreciated.