In a photograph dating from 1931, Matisse is shown sketching The Dance—a gigantic mural commissioned by Albert Barnes for his Foundation in Merion—with his charcoal at the end of a six-foot bamboo stick. This unusual practice stems from the artist’s discovery, dating from the time he was working on another work now in the Barnes Foundation, his 1906 Bonheur de vivre, that squaring up a small sketch, as has been the standard procedure for large paintings and murals since at least the Renaissance, was incompatible with his aesthetic. The bamboo stick resurfaces in Matisse’s studio at the end of the 1940s when is he working on his Vence Chapel, his old age further emphasizing the acrobatic nature of the feat, and the amazing control the artist had of his drawing tool. But while Matisse’s use of the cane is consistent with the artist’s creed with regard to two of the chapel’s mural—Saint Dominic and the Virgil and Child—it seems absurd when he dealt with the third mural, the Stations of the Cross, for which each of the fourteen stations were first sketched on individual pieces of paper at their final scale. For Matisse, a picture plane must always be conceived and perceived whole; the piecemeal approach is anathema to him—which is to say that the narrative structure of the Stations of the Cross is entirely contradictory to his aesthetic. Yet the choice of this topic for the Vence Chapel was fully his. What is one to make of such a contradiction? And was Matisse attempting to mask it, or on the contrary to reveal it, by the extraordinary rough manner in which he painted his Stations, a deliberate «primitivism» that has so far prevented Matisse scholars to give a close look at this work.