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“Today’s a good day for painting,” Henri said out loud, practicing his English. He walked confidently into the room, doffed his cap, and strode to the balcony.

Matisse's StudioThere he stood, feet shoulder-width apart, and drew a deep and mighty breath.

He gazed over the scene below. It was early — and a Sunday — so there was very little activity in the two bistros on this block. But, sure enough, there was Corot sipping coffee, shooting the breeze with Old Man Pisarro — who was sketching a landscape on the tablecloth with the end of a burned out cigar. Henri could hear Pisarro’s booming voice from way up here, but he leaned over anyway, wanting to get the full effect.

“This is the problem with my new painting! The red of the garden wall is washed out by the sun, so it appears pink and yellow and bright brown! Don’t think local color, think with your eyes! I have just invented the phrase ‘bright brown,’ by the way, Monsieur!”

The recipient of this advice, Jean Baptiste-Camille Corot, took another sip from his cup and leaned over the drawing, dabbing coffee with his pinkie over the top of the image. “Now it is better. Now it is real. The coffee, Maestro, is ‘bright brown.'”

“It is a painting!” shouted Pisarro. “It is NOT real at all!”

Henri chuckled and looked further up the street and watched as Gustave Caillebotte opened his umbrella over a certain new brilliant painter arrived newly on the scene — Mme. Cassatt — to gallantly protect her from the light rain. Tiny drops of water made all the colors of the cobblestone street turn from dull to vibrant.

Matisse took it all in, turned, and grabbed a stick of charcoal as he drew a fluid line onto a new canvas.

A good day for painting in Matisse's Uptown Studio, oil painting by Michael Chambers