Painted in Paris in 1909. probably at the end of the summer alter the painter had returned Irom Cavaliero. this picture depicts Matisse and his wife. Amelie. although later Matisse remembered that his goal was not to paint a portrait but rather to paint a large composition. Conversation is one of the most important works of Matisse"s earlv period and serves as a link connecting two other major pictures ot the prewar period: Red Room and Family Portrait.
In Conversation Matisse returns to the problem of the color blue, which bothered him in his Harmony in Blue. As a result, it became Harmony in Red. The picture is almost the same size as the Red Room, but more monumental. Here the details are not as dependent upon ornament, although ornament is included in the composition as the central motil. A black grid links the figures and the background and also serves to join the two themes ot the man and the woman together. There were two conflicting beginnings for this painting, which explains why the figures face each other, unlike the composition of any other paintings by Matisse.
In August 1912. when it is believed that Shchukin purchased Conversation, he wrote to Matisse: "I think a lot about your blue painting (with two figures i. It looks to me like a Byzantine enamel, as rich and as deep in color. This is one of the most wonderful paintings which will remain in my memory."
The traditional dating of the Conversation to 1909 seems quite convincing as it was determined by Barr. who had discussed it with the painter himself and his son Pierre.
Hermitage Museum, inv. no. 6521
1912. Schukin collection. Moscow;
1918. First Museum of Modem Western Painting. Moscow;
1928. Museum of Modem Western Art. Moscow;
since 1930. Hermitage. Leningrad (Saint Petersburg).