Acquired from the above in March 1948
Writing about the intensity of Matisse’s palette in his interiors executed around this time, John Elderfield commented: "The Vence interiors of 1946-48 are so flooded with intense color that it seems at times to overflow the limits of the canvas. Matisse shows us at once a mysterious interior space of colors and patterns, within which the specific identities of things are nevertheless retained, and an elemental chromatic plane, real and substantial that radiate light into the space around it. His last style, like the last style of the other great artists, amounts to a coincidence of opposites. The calmness of the interior space and the energy that is released into our own space are inseparable and interfused" (John Elderfield, Henri Matisse, A Retrospective (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1992, p. 413).
The present work features a floral motif which pervaded many of the canvases in this series. This subject matter – a floral motif, a bottle of ink and a black and white line which allowed the artist to combine the interior and exterior settings within a single composition, had already captured Matisse’s imagination during his early career, most notably in the two early monumental oils: Harmonie en rouge of 1908 at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, and La Leçon de musique of 1917, now in the collection of the Barnes Foundation. As in his Le Silence habité des maisons, painted in the same year as the present work, Matisse concerned himself with the juxtaposition of contrasting forms, layering interior and exterior, still-life and figure, and straight and curved lines throughout the canvas. Instead of dissecting the pictorial space, these contrasts underscore the unity of the composition because all of the elements in the painting are set on the same plane. This sensation is enhanced by the relatively uniform application of bold colors outlined in black contours. As one of the last oil paintings Matisse executed prior to his final series of paper cut-outs, Anémones et grenades echoes the bold arrangements of collage elements that marked his late oeuvre. In this work, the artist has maintained a border of bare canvas in each element of the composition, so that the patches of pure pigment resemble pieces of paper pasted onto the canvas. This device has the effect of eliminating any suggestion of modeling, thus reasserting the flatness of the picture surface.
Along with its technical mastery, Anémones et grenades reveals a certain vigor related to the artist’s personal situation during this period of his life. Matisse’s paintings of 1946, including the present work, take on a rejuvenated sense of artistic perseverance perhaps ignited by having been faced with his own morality in the earlier part of the decade “I didn’t expect to recover from my second operation but since I did, I consider that I am living on borrowed time,” he told Picasso and Françoise Gilot. Working from his studio at Le Rêve, Matisse painted with an intensity and passion which he had endeavored all of his life. The vibrancy of these canvases provided inspiration for Picasso, who frequently visited Matisse’s studio during this period. After his lengthy recuperation from a nearly fatal operation several years earlier, Matisse now embraced his new lease on life and enthusiastically wrote to his friend André Rouveyre in May 1947: "I’ve got several works in progress. I’m full of curiosity, as when one visits a new country. For I’ve never before advanced this far in the expression of colors" (quoted in Pierre Schneider, Matisse, New York, 1984, p. 650).
The first owner of this picture was Alfred Moritz Frankfurter (1906-1965), who was a New York-based art historian, critic and editor of Art News. Frankfurter was the director of the American pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 1948, and he advised numerous private collectors on acquisitions throughout the 1950s. On the occasion of the 1948 Biennale, Frankfurter published an article in Art News entitled, "Matisse, Is He the Greatest?". That same year, he sold this picture to the Goldwyn family for $13,500. According to Scott Berg, Anémones et grenades was the first picture that Goldwyn purchased for his collection.
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