Game of Bowls 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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The Game of Bowls is one of the unique art pieces by the French artist, Henri Matisse. The paint was created in 1908 and went through a series of collection before settling down for conservation.

The painting is currently located in the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, as part of The Hermitage collection. It is part of Matisse's portfolio on Golden Age and ended up being in the collection of Sergei Shchukin right before the start of the October Revolution of 1917.

The style and theme of the painting mainly revolve around expressionism. The painting's elements seem straightforward, but people can look in hundreds of ways. In the painting, three men seem to be young, probably in their teenage years. The young men are presumed to be the painter's sons, but one of them is his nephew since Henri Matisse is known for only having two sons at the time of the painting.

The characters are playing an ancient game known as the game of Boules. According to Matisse, the game represents the creativity instilled within humans through understanding the logic of the codes of life.

As an artist known for the separation of shape from colour, the painting showcases one of his main styles of expression through art. The colours are rather pale but still strong enough to separate the different subjects from the background. In this painting, he uses about five shades. These are green, blue, black, red and cream. The green colour shows the setting in which the characters are playing the game of bowls. It seems to be on the ground with some sort of vegetation like grass, although it is not clear since the texture is the same.

The foreground has shades of blue colour, which could represent the sky. This shows that the game is happening outdoors, and the sky is clear. All the characters in the painting seem to participate in the game, although two of them seem to be active while the other sits observing the entire gameplay.

One of the characters seems to have some clothing represented by the red streak starting from the end of his torso. The game involves black balls thrown on the ground with rules that are not depicted in the painting. The painting medium is on oil on canvas and measures 115 cm × 147 cm (45 in × 58 in) in size, giving clarity on the style and each element represented. Different themes have emerged from several analysis of the painting but there is still no settled description of the entire meaning of the painting.

Game of Bowls in Detail Henri Matisse