I saw this painting in the Hermitage in Saint Petersburg, Russia on the 12th July.
I have seen this or similar ‘dance’ paintings from Matisse.
Tamara and I went to a Matisse exhibition in London three years ago and I may have seen it or a different version of it then.
Be that as it may, it was only in the rooms on the fourth floor of the General Staff Building of the Hermitage ten days ago that I came to appreciate Matisse. It’s not that I specifically didn’t like him before – it’s just that I didn’t get a lot from him.
But in the Hermitage there was a still life with flowers near a window that I liked a lot. I spent a few minutes looking at it and then looked at the other Matisse paintings in the adjoining rooms rather more closely than I might otherwise have.
Please take a look at the painting of dancers in a circle that’s at the top of this article. What do you notice? Anything in particular?
When I first looked, I saw a circle – a complete circle.
On looking a bit more closely I saw that the circle is broken. The person to the left is elegant and poised. But the hand has slipped from the person next to him/her, and that person is falling. And the hands that miss each other are placed over the leg of the person behind.
If they were placed in space – in the blue background – then we would see it immediately. But with the placement where it is, it is easier to miss. That’s clever.
And now the painting is not the perfect circle but the broken, imperfect circle, and much more about life.