Matisse, Henri. The Dance II. 1932. The Barnes Foundation, Merion Station.
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In 1930, Henri Matisse traveled to the United States to judge paintings at the Carnegie International Exhibition in Pittsburgh. This trip would lead to his overwhelming mural, The Dance II (1932). While visiting, he went to see the two largest collections of his work in America. One of these two was at the Barnes Foundation in Merion Station, Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia. The gallery was owned by doctor, millionaire, and art enthusiast Albert Barnes who began collecting Matisse’s art before World War I. The walls of the Barnes Foundation are filled with famous works by masters including Renior, Seurat, Van Gogh and Cézanne. Included in the many Matisse’s collected by Barnes is Joy of Life (1906). It was on this visit that Barnes told Matisse that he wanted him to paint a mural for his main hall of the gallery. It was to be forty-seven feet long and eleven feet high and span the three arches above a massive set of windows. Matisse had never done anything so large before but accepted the job in 1931. Barnes sent an enormous canvas to Matisse in Nice and gave him full artistic control over the work. Since Matisse was painting directly onto the canvas unlike most other mural painters, the process involved ladders, trestles and charcoal attached to a bamboo pole for outlines. He also used huge pieces of cut-paper as templates and to try out different colors. This idea later developed into his cut-outs. With The Dance I (1932) finally completed in 1932, Matisse prepared to send the entire canvas to Barnes and learned that the whole mural was too short by about five feet. Rather than adding on an extra five feet Matisse started over with the correct measurements and completed an entirely new mural in April of 1932. It is this second mural, The Dance II, that hangs at the Barnes Foundation (Mannering 63-66).