Art Work

Byatt, A. S. (Antonia Susan)

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Annotated by:
Sirridge, Marjorie
  • Date of entry: Jan-25-1999
  • Last revised: Jan-23-2013


The Matisse art work which forms the center for this story is the painting, "Le Silence Habité des Maisons," which shows a parent and child with featureless faces sitting at a table while looking together at a book. This painting is described as the reader is introduced to a family of artists and their unusual housekeeper, Mrs. Brown.

The mother is the design editor of a magazine, A Woman’s Place, and the father is a rigid, relatively unsuccessful painter. There are two children in the family. Mrs. Brown provides the cement to keep the family together and learns from them ways to develop her own unusual kind of art. Interpersonal relationships are fragile and personal needs are great. There is a surprise ending.


The impact of the story lies mainly in the skillful way the silence of the house, as suggested by the Matisse painting, is shown to be responsible for the outcome.


Primary Source

The Matisse Stories


Random House

Place Published

New York



Page Count