This painting was created during Motherwell’s transition from his association with European Surrealism to the growing movement of Abstract Expressionism in New York. The Museum’s La Danse is closely related to a larger painting entitled La Danse II (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). In both paintings, three black torso-like forms are linked by two smaller forms and float against a brilliant orange-red rectangle. The Danse paintings reflect the influence of Matisse, whose work Motherwell greatly admired. They stylistically reflect Matisse’s Jazz series of paper cutouts, but may have been more directly inspired by Matisse’s La Danse I and II paintings (1909–10), two versions of a ring of five dancers created as a commission from Sergei Shchukin. Motherwell’s Danse canvases are not figurative or representational, but (like Matisse’s paintings) use five forms that create a dance-like sense of motion and are posed against backgrounds of unified areas of color.
Oil on canvas