Henri Matisse’s Bathers by a River is a renowned 1917 oil-on-canvas painting that he considered one of the five most pivotal works of his career. The artwork facilitated the evolution of Matisse’s style for almost a decade and marked the transition from his Fauvist period to his more abstract works. With its restricted palette and severely abstracted forms, it differs significantly from Dance II and Music.
Matisse began working on Bathers by a River in 1909 but only finished it in 1917, depicting four female bathers and two stand-alone male figures defined through thick black outlines. The background was transformed into four vertical bands, while the river became one solid vertical band with an even thicker black outline. While bather subject matters have been significant throughout French art for centuries, Matisse takes on several influences within this work to create something unique.
As primarily a painter who struggled with sculpture, his interest won over abstraction; thus, he views Bathers by A River as one of his most essential works. It currently belongs to the collection of the Art Institute of Chicago but has been exhibited worldwide several times since its creation over a century ago – offering art lovers an opportunity to witness some of Henri Matisse’s best work firsthand.