Henri Matisse

French (Le Cateau-Cambrésis, France, 1869 - 1954, Nice, France)

Sketch for “Le Bonheur de vivre” (“The Joy of Life”)

painting | oil on canvas
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  • Sketch for “Le Bonheur de vivre” (“The Joy of Life”)

    Henri Matisse, Sketch for “Le Bonheur de vivre” (“The Joy of Life”), 1905-1906; oil on canvas, 16 in. x 21 1/2 in. (40.64 cm x 54.61 cm); Collection SFMOMA, Bequest of Elise S. Haas; © Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

This work is the final known oil sketch for Matisse's monumental landscape Le bonheur de vivre, now in the collection of the Barnes Foundation in Pennsylvania.

Its liberal and expressive use of color (also apparent in the finished painting) is characteristic of Fauvism, an early modernist movement that also emphasized flattened space and formal qualities such as line and brushwork. Matisse and other Fauvists applied these innovative methods to many traditional artistic subjects, including portraiture, landscape, and the still life.

Deemed the "climactic" work of Fauvism by one critic, the final version of Le bonheur de vivre differs greatly in scale from this study, for the painting is over four times as large. In style, the sketch looks toward Neo-Impressionism with its loose dabs of broken color, while the painting features flat expanses of color and a more linear treatment of the figures.

Although the sketch is a thoroughly modern picture, Matisse also drew from older artistic modes, including French academic painting and the iconography of Greek vases, to create this pastoral scene of carefree innocence and languid, pleasurable repose.

16 in. x 21 1/2 in. (40.64 cm x 54.61 cm)
Acquired 1991
Collection SFMOMA
Bequest of Elise S. Haas
© Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


landscapes, arcadian, pastoral, nudes, reclining, embracing, Fauves

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