Through the 1920s, Matisse stayed in Nice from late fall to early spring of each year, while his wife and family remained in Issy-les-Moulineaux outside Paris. Pianist and Checker Players is set in Matisse's Nice apartment and shows the artist's favorite model, Henriette Darricarère, and her two brothers. The painting can be seen as a surrogate family portrait, with Henriette standing in for Matisse's daughter, and the two boys representing his sons. But regardless of the relationship between the artist and his subjects, this is distinctly Matisse's world: near the empty armchair at the center of the painting where the artist might sit, his violins hang from the armoire and his drawings and paintings are tacked to the wall.
The possible psychological complexities of the painting are more than matched by those of its pictorial organization. In few paintings does Matisse manage to control such an extraordinary proliferation of pattern and ornamentation. To this decorative profusion Matisse adds an equivalent abundance of perspectival viewpoints: piano, chairs, floor, and bureau are each pictured from different angles. Despite the wealth of pictorial elements, a curious, calm order of structured harmony prevails. #Pianist and Checker Players# is suffused with a warm glow made up of complementary tones of yellow and red.
lower right: Henri Matisse
Sold 21 October 1924 by the artist to (Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris); by whom sold 24 October 1924 to Georges Bernheim, Paris; sold to Paul Rosenberg, Paris; sold to (Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York); sold 1951 to (Paul Rosenberg and Co., New York); Alexandre Rosenberg, New York; sold c. 1977 to (Eugene Victor Thaw and Co., New York); sold January 1978 to Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, Upperville, Virginia; gift 1985 to NGA.
- Georges Braque - Henri Matisse - Pablo Picasso from the Paul Rosenberg Collection, Durand-Ruel Galleries, New York, 1934, no. 24
- Les Maitres de l'art indépendant 1895-1937, Petit Palais, Paris, 1937, no. 34
- Les chefs-d'oeuvres des collections privées françaises retrouvés en Allemagne, Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris, 1946, no. 53
- Henri Matisse, UCLA Art Galleries; The Art Institute of Chicago; The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, 1966, no. 59, repro.
- Modern Masters: Manet to Matisse, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1975, no. 71, repro.
- Aspects of Twentieth-Century Art, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1978-1979, no. 46, repro., as Checker Game and Piano Music.
- Gifts to the Nation: Selected Acquisitions from the Collections of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1986, unnumbered checklist, repro.
- Henri Matisse: The Early Years in Nice 1916-1930, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1986-7, no. 129, repro.
- Matisse et l'Italie, Assessorato alla Cultura, Venice, 1987, no. P41, repro.
- Henri Matisse: A Retrospective, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1992-1993, no. 257, repro.
- Henri Matisse: 'La révélation m'est venue de l'Orient', Musei Capitolini,, 1997-1998, no. 66, repro.
- Henri Matisse: Figur Farbe Raum [Henri Matisse: Figure Color Space], Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf; Fondation Beyeler, Basel, 2005-2006, no. 114, repro. (Düsseldorf cat.), fig. 73 (Basel/Franch cat.), fig. 77 (Basel/German cat.).
- Matisse: Menschen, Masken, Modelle [Matisse: People, Masks, Models], Stattsgalerie Stuttgart; Bucerius Kunst Forum, Hamburg, 2008-2009, no. 67, repro. (shown only in Stuttgart).
- Matisse: 1917-1941, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid, 2009, no. 29, repro.
- Matisse: La seduzione di Michelangelo, Museo di Santa Giulia, Brescia, 2011, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
- Henir Matisse: La Musicalité d'un Oeuvre, Musée Matisse, Nice, 2013, no catalogue.
- Strick, Jeremy. Twentieth Century Painting and Sculpture: Selections for the Tenth Anniversary of the East Building. Washington, D.C., 1989: 42, repro. 43.
- Gingold, Diane J. and Elizabeth A.C. Weil. The Corporate Patron. New York, 1991: 104-105, color repro.
- National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 259, repro.
- Dauberville, Guy-Patrice and Michel. Henri Matisse Chez Bernheim-Jeune. 2 vols. Paris, 1995:II:no. 607.
- Matisse: La révélation m'est venue de l'Orient, Exh. cat., Musei capitolini, Rome, 1997: 190, no. 66, repro.
- Mittler, Gene A., and Rosalind Ragans. Understanding Art. New York, 1997: fig. 16-1.
- Kirsh, Andrea, and Levenson, Rustin S. Seeing Through Paintings: Physical Examination in Art Historical Studies. Physical Examination in Art Historical Studies, vol. 1. New Haven, 2000: 264
- Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 416, no. 347, color repro.
- Cooper, Harry. The Robert and Jane Meyerhoff Collection: Selected Works. Exh. cat. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 2009: 14, repro.