Aldus C. Higgins, Worcester, Massachusetts (acquired from the above on 19th October 1937)
Private Collection, U.S.A. (acquired by descent from the above. Sold: Christie’s, New York, 15th May 1990, lot 61)
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner
Gaston Diehl, Matisse, Paris, 1967, illustrated p. 17
Lydia Delectorskaya, … l’apparente facilité… Henri Matisse. Peintures de 1935-1939, Paris, 1986, illustrated p. 219
Guy-Patrice & Michel Dauberville, Matisse, Paris, 1995, vol. II, no. 752, illustrated p. 1366 (titled Femme brune)
In a discussion concerning his working methods with the poet Tériade, which was later published in 1937, Matisse wrote: ‘In my latest paintings, I united the acquisitions of the last twenty years to my essential core, to my very essence. […] The reaction of each stage is as important as the subject. For this reaction comes from me and not from the subject. It is from the basis of my interpretation that I continually react until my work comes into harmony with me... At each stage, I reach a balance, a conclusion. At the next sitting, if I find there is a weakness in the whole, I make my way back into the picture by means of the weakness - I re-enter through the breach-end, I reconceive the whole. Thus everything becomes fluid again and as each element is only one of the component forces (as in an orchestration), the whole can be changed in appearance but the feeling sought still remains the same. A black could very well replace a blue, since basically the expression derives from the relationships. One is not bound to a blue, to a green or to a red, whose timbres can be introverted or replaced if the feeling so dictates… At the final stage the painter finds himself freed and his emotion exists complete in his work' (quoted in Jack Flam (ed.), Matisse on Art, Berkeley, 1995, p. 123).
Discussing Matisse’s portraits of the mid-1930s, John Elderfield wrote: ‘his model is shown in decorative costumes – a striped Persian coat [fig. 5], a Rumanian blouse – and the decorativeness and the very construction of a costume and of a painting are offered as analogous. What developed were groups of paintings showing his model in similar or different poses, costumes, and settings: a sequence of themes and variations that gained in mystery and intensity as it unfolded’ (J. Elderfield in Henri Matisse, A Retrospective (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1992, p. 357). Boléro violet is an extraordinary example of Matisse’s constantly evolving perception of form and colour. The paintings of the late 1930s are the supreme outcome of decades of improvisation on these decorative elements, wherein contrasting patterns and colours of the present work harmonise, and the features of the young Hélène are transfigured into the epitome of timeless elegance.
The first owner of the present work was Aldus Chapin Higgins of Worcester, Massachusetts. Higgins acquired Boléro violet from Paul Rosenberg’s Paris exhibition of Matisse’s recent works in 1937 which subsequently travelled to London. The previous year Rosenberg persuaded Matisse to sign a three year contract, thus becoming his principal dealer. These exhibitions in Paris and London, held for the next few years, helped the artist to sell directly to a large number of collectors from America and Europe. Aldus C. Higgins was a businessman who spent his entire career with his family’s firm, the Norton Emery Wheel Company. He also invented a water-cooled electric furnace which won the John Scott medal for exceptional achievement in mechanical arts in 1914. Higgins also commissioned the architect Grosvenor Atterbury to build him a house modelled on Compton Wyngates, the Elizabethan seat of the Marquesses of Northampton. The house was completed in 1923, and Higgins and his wife, Mary, lived there until their deaths when it was given to the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, of which his family had been tremendously supportive. Aldus and Mary Higgins were avid collectors of art, and during trips to Europe purchased many wonderful paintings including the magnificent Fauve canvas, L’Oliviers by Georges Braque and Georges Rouault’s Coucher du soleil which were both eventually bequeathed to the Worcester Art Museum. Boléro violet remained in Higgins' family possession until 1990, when it was acquired by the present owner.
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