This work is one of the most striking examples from the series of portraits Matisse created in 1947. As the photograph (Fig. 1) illustrates, these drawings were even used to decorate the walls of his studio. After health problems left the artist mostly bed ridden after 1941, his attention was often focused on his now legendary, ‘cut outs’ whilst always maintaining a powerful connection with portraiture. Matisse revealed that ‘[Faces] probably retain my attention through their expressive individuality and through an interest that is entirely of a plastic nature. Each face has its own rhythm and it is this rhythm that creates the likeness. The conclusion of this is: the art of portraiture is the most remarkable’ (Henri Matisse quoted in Jack Flam (ed.), Matisse on Art, Berkeley, 1995, pp. 220-221).
As testament to the quality of the piece, Tête, Marie José featured in the collection of prominent Belgian collector Fernand Graindorge, who owned more than twenty five drawings by Henri Matisse. He was an important member of the art world, especially in the city of Liège where he was instrumental in placing the city as a contemporary art centre in the 1950s. He promoted and played a major role in the A.P.I.A.W. (Association for the Intellectual and Artistic Progress of Wallonia) where forty nine drawings by Henri Matisse were exhibited in 1947. His donation of seventy works - including another brush and ink drawing by Matisse - to the French community of Belgium was the subject of an exhibition at the Liège Musée des Beaux-Arts in 2009. The present portrait was gifted by Graindorge to the parents of the current owners on their wedding day (6th May 1952) and has remained in the family ever since.
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