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Music forms a pair with The Dance, also painted in 1910. After the collector Sergey Shchukin commissioned The Dance, he wrote to Henri Matisse asking for an additional panel on the subject of music.
It is only when seen together that the two pictures acquire their full resonance.
Matisse worked on the huge canvas for Music without preparatory sketches. The canvas bears the traces of numerous alterations, so almost all of the steps in the artist's journey are visible.
Once complete, the central idea behind the Shchukin commission was man’s achievement of a state of completeness through a passionate immersion in creativity.
Music comprises the same elements as The Dance such as the expressive harmony of green, red and blue. The five simple figures of musicians and singers echo the five dancers.
Matisse viewed composition as, "the art of arranging in a decorative manner the various elements at a painter’s disposal for the expression of his feelings.” His aim was to create paintings that appeared effortless. However, in reality, the unity and rhythm he achieved were far from easy and elements had to be positioned with great care.
In the composition of Music various shapes are repeated throughout. Horizontal and vertical lines anchor the diagonals and the curves, and the placement of colours is perfectly balanced.
A diagonal line begins with the legs of the figure on the left and continues up through the guitar, with the colours of the left-hand woman’s dress and legs repeated. The right arms of both figures are in the same pose; the left arm of one figure is in parallel with the right leg of her companion; and the hairstyles and facial features of both women are alike.
Matisse’s ultimate goal was to create a soothing balance in his work. With Music he has achieved this.