30 October 2008

Matisse Was a Checker Player

Chessbase.com recently posted an essay by Kiril Penušliski, The Black and White Board in Art. In the essay the author wrote,

What is common to all these works of art, and is best epitomised in the works of the great Henry Matisse, is the way chess is presented. Either it is a simple decorative element, such as the board appearing in Femme à Côté d’un Échiquier or the Odalisques, or, as most artists have depicted it, as in The Painters Family, it is presented as an intellectual struggle between two opponents who have been locked together by an invisible force and are now held firm together, bent over a small table which is their own personal field of battle.

and used three paintings by Matisse, including the following.

'The Painters Family' by Henry Matisse

I've seen this painting many times, usually described as having something to do with chess. Close examination of the image, however, reveals that the players are playing checkers, not chess. The other two images that Penušliski uses also have nothing to do with chess. The first is an empty chess board, which could just as well be a checker board, and the second shows another game of checkers.

I accept that the great majority of non-chess players can't tell the difference between chess, checkers, or other board games. To find this confusion in a Chessbase.com article is surprising.

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