From the State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia:
In this work, painted in Issy-les-Moulineaux near Paris in 1911, Matisse depicted his sons Jean and Pierre, deep in a game of draughts, his daughter Marguerite and his wife Amelie. In itself a family portrait set in an interior is a simple and natural idea; it could have been intimate and emotional, but ever true to himself, the artist moved beyond mere intimacy to make the composition monumental and majestic. The structure of this large canvas is unusual. Matisse takes us into a world of whimsical patterns - now childishly naive, now of oriental complexity - which incorporate the draughts board, one of the most important elements in the painting. This patterning might have threatened the compositional unity of the work, but Matisse, as it were challenging the multiplicity of colours and lines he had created, managed to achieve clarity and logic through careful organisation of the canvas. The figures play the central role in establishing the unity of the painting. It is they - as always in the artist's works shown with a clear and simple outline - who contain, concentrated within themselves, the most resonant colour: the red of the boy's clothes, and black dress and the lemon-yellow book. Matisse has created a vast, tense world, the air vibrant with deep spiritual concentration, which seems almost tangible in the blue-black of the mirror over the fireplace.