No longer was Matisse preoccupied with the radical experimentation and predominant use of sombre colours that dominated his art from 1913. Bathed in the serene sunshine of the South, he now increasingly sought to achieve a dialogue between abstraction and figuration; ‘he now wanted two-dimensional space to create effects which had so far been produced by three-dimensional space. It was no longer a question of skilfully combining realism with abstraction, but of getting abstraction to simulate realism’ (Pierre Schneider in ‘The Richness of Nothingness’, Matisse, Paris, 1984, p. 508). Matisse’s paintings of the 1920s are largely devoted to the subject of a female figure in an opulently decorated interior setting. Such compositions allowed Matisse to explore the spatial dynamism of the many shapes and patterns found in the furnishings of the room and their visual harmony in relation to the sitter.
The sitter in the present work is the charming Antoinette Arnoud, one of Matisse's favourite models at the time, she was 'nineteen years old, pale, slender and supple with a quintessentially urban, indoor chic and the kind of responsive intelligence Matisse required at this point from a model' (H. Spurling, Matisse The Master, A Life of Henri Matisse, The Conquest of Colour, 1909-1954, New York, 2005, p.223). Antoinette would feature on a large number of paintings and drawings and discussing his paintings from this period and the role of his sitters, Matisse wrote: ‘My models, human figures, are never just 'extras' in an interior. They are the principal theme in my work. I depend entirely on my model, whom I observe at liberty, and then I decide on the pose which best suits her nature. When I take a new model, I intuit the pose that will best suit her from her un-self-conscious attitudes of repose, and then I become the slave of that pose.' (quoted in Ernst Gerhard Güse, Henri Matisse, Drawings and Sculpture, Munich, 1991, p. 22).
In Jeune fille en noir, Matisse succeeds through contrasting elements and hues in playing on the perception of perspective. Through the use of the iconic cherry-red flooring – an ambiguous figurative element which appears in his works from 1919, Matisse challenges the viewer as to its figurative use within the composition: to create depth from a perceived angle or to faithfully reproduce a decorative surface. The sitter, a young lady, is depicted in a delicate dress composed of black and subtle hues of grey highlights. Such dominance of the colour black and the intensity of its hues were explored in Marguerite à la toque bleue from 1918 in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York (Fig. 2). In Jeune fille en noir the sitter is placed on a bright ochre sofa placed at the corner of a room, the sitter's hand subtly touches the crimson and golden curtain to the upper left part of the composition. Effectively tilting the young girl to the foreground of the painting, she is almost tumbling forwards towards the viewer. This pictorial instability creates a sense of internal movement, shifting a static representation of a seated sitter, into an active, visually participatory, scene. Matisse strategically arranges the composition to maximize the visual dynamism of the scene, highlighting, with a touch of Prussian blue on the sitter’s feet, a visual accord within the whole of the interior dominated by the intensity of the predominant colours of red and black. Through the use of black, no longer relegated to the confines of outlines, the sitter emerges from the background. The outline of each element is overlapped and gently caressing another, and through this interweaving of imagery, Matisse has created a seamlessness to the composition through its harmony of contrasts.
The present work was in the prized collection of Alphonse Kann in St Germain-en-Laye. Born in Vienna in 1870, Kann was a prominent collector who amassed one of the most important collections spanning from African art, Aubusson tapestries, to the most avant-garde of modern art. An elegant dandy, he was friends with Marcel Proust and is thought to have inspired the character of Charles Swann in À la recherche du temps perdu. Kann was forced to escape Nazi persecution heading to London in 1938, leaving behind his collection which was looted by the Einsatzstab Reichleiter Rosenberg (ERR) in 1940. The present work was one of eighteen other Modern works deemed as Entartete Kunst (degenerate art) and received in exchange of a 16th century depiction of Titian’s daughter to the ERR by the Parisian art dealer Gustav Rochlitz. Modern art works were generally dismissed as degenerate and sold for the more traditional Old Master paintings. Rochlitz subsequently sold five of these Modern works, of which the present painting was part, to the art dealers Klein, Mlle Levy, Paul Pètrides, and Isidor Rosner, and eventually, the painting was restituted to the heirs of Alphonse Kann after the Second World War.
A Retro Racing Watch for the Modern Man
First Look: A Nearly Impossible Collection of the Most Legendary Wines
10 Dazzling Jewels from the Bourbon Parma Family Collection
First Look: Relive the 1990s Through the Collection of Damien Hirst’s Legendary Manager
Market-leading Contemporary Art Sales in Asia
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.
Online Registration to Bid is Closed for this Sale. Would you like to watch the live sale?Ver Subasta En Directon