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Henri Matisse—an artist devoted primarily to painting—approached sculpture as an arena for creative experimentation. Backs I–IV comprise Matisse's only sculptural project to assume the monumentality of his major canvases. The four sculptures were completed over a span of about 20 years. After Back I, Matisse began each subsequent version with a plaster cast from the previous one, revising the composition with additions and subtractions. Though the figure, shown from the back, is executed in high relief, the spine becomes gradually straightened and simplified. These reliefs were not conceived as a cycle, yet seen in sequence they reveal how Matisse could maintain a brilliant dialogue within his own production and the passage of time. The four Backs stand as an intimate and powerful record of the artist's studio practice, demonstrating his move from expressive naturalism to a severe Neoclassicism.
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Henri Matisse, French, 1869–1954
- 1913, cast 1979
- 74 5/8 × 47 3/4 × 7 3/8 in. (189.5 × 121.3 × 18.7 cm)
- Credit Line
Museum purchase funded by Mr. and Mrs. Gus Wortham
- Current Location
The Lillie and Hugh Roy Cullen Sculpture Garden
- Accession Number
Claude S. Duthuit, Paris, until 1980; purchased by MFAH, 1980.