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The Joy of Life by Henri Matisse is perhaps the first canvas to clearly understand the great formal challenge of Paul Cézanne and to further the elder master's ideas. This painting is simultaneously seen as inspired by and breaking free of Paul Cézanne's, last great painting, The Large Bathers in its marked symmetry and the adaptation of the nude forms to the triangular pattern of the trees and river.

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Three large paintings of bathers in the landscape were the main preoccupation of the French painter Paul Cézanne in the last years of his life. The most famous is the painting The Large Bathers, which he painted for an incredible seven years, and considered unfinished until he died in 1906. The painting is considered a masterpiece of modern art and one of the greatest compositions of all time. It became an inspiration for Cubism and influenced many generations of modern artists. In form and date, The Joy of Life by Henri Matisse is closest to Cézanne's last great image of bathers and the nude figures in the painting were later compared to Pablo Picasso's painting of The Young Ladies of Avignon. The painting The Large Bathers is housed in the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

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