Bathers with a Turtle Henri Matisse Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Bathers with a Turtle (Baigneuses) was completed in 1907/08 by Henri Matisse and has an interesting history behind it, having been targeted for destruction as part of the infamous 'degenerate art' campaign of the Third Reich in Germany.

Thankfully, this work was hastily purchased and saved for future generations, now being owned by the Saint Louis Art Museum in St. Louis, Missouri. This campaign against the finest modern artists of that period also attacked the work of Franz Marc, Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky. In the case of Bathers with a Turtle, the artist's son had urged it's purchase from an auction in order to avoid its inevitable destruction. A gentleman by the name of Joseph Pulitzer Jr stepped up to the challenge and ensured its survival. It is from him that it eventually made it's way to the United States, where it remains today. It is one of the highlights of the overall collection and a popular draw for the venue's thousands of visitors.

The outlines to the figures in this painting remind us of his blue nudes series, though in this artwork there is obviously far more detail added inside. Elements of the figures are elongated, Matisse was not trying to produce a painting in a realist style, but instead adding his own expressive style to portray these women. You will find a similar approach in Les Demoiselles d'Avignon by Pablo Picasso which was completed at around this time. Picasso's approach was Cubist, whilst Matisse experimented with Fauvism, Expressionism and Post-Impressionism. Their lives did cross paths at times, but their age difference meant it was not quite the meeting of minds that it might otherwise have been.

Those able to view this painting at the Saint Louis Art Museum in St. Louis, Missouri may also be interested in some of the other parts of their permanent collection, including Stairway at Auvers by Vincent van Gogh, Self Portrait, 1950, by Max Beckmann, Bathers by Paul Cezanne and Seated Woman by Pablo Picasso. In truth, there are thousands of items to see, going way beyond just painting and sculpture into all manner of different cultures and historical periods. It can be considered one of the finest collections in all of the US and was put together through a mixture of private acquisitions as well as generous donations from local collectors, some of whom may have travelled across the world earlier in their lives in order to be able to purchase items such as these in the first place.