Henri Matisse. The Back (I). Paris, Couvent du Sacré Coeur, and Issy-les-Moulineaux, spring 1908-late 1909

Henri Matisse

The Back (I)

Paris, Couvent du Sacré Coeur, and Issy-les-Moulineaux, spring 1908-late 1909

6' 2 3/8" x 44 1/2" x 6 1/2" (188.9 x 113 x 16.5 cm)
Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund
Object number
© 2017 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Painting and Sculpture
This work is on view in the Sculpture Garden, with 16 other works online.
Henri Matisse has 314 works online.
There are 1,560 sculptures online.

Matisse began Back, his largest sculpture to date, in spring 1908 in his studio in Paris and worked on it for over a year, keeping the clay wet in order to do so. In June 1909, as he prepared to move to his new studio in the Paris suburb of Issy-les-Moulineaux, he cast the relief in plaster, thereby destroying the original. Now working in plaster, he changed his methods, adding fresh material to the hard, rewetted surface and removing hardened forms with chisels, hammers, and rasps. Matisse returned to Back several times over the next twenty-one years, each time beginning with a plaster cast of the previous state. He also preserved a plaster version of each state, and, cast in bronze, they are the works we know today—Back (I), Back (II), Back (III), and Back (IV).

Gallery label from Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-1917, July 18–October 11, 2010

This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.
Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchased from Pierre Matisse, 1952

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