Impressionist & Modern Day sale will take place 25 June at Sotheby's London.
LONDON - Henri Matisse’s ink drawings of the 1940s possess an elegant balance between stillness and spontaneity: while classical in their simplicity and discipline, with detail pared down to the minimum, his forms are articulated through bold gestural strokes of the brush, redolent of flowing ancient calligraphy. The artist chose to decorate his home with these graphic images and the present work is seen pinned to his studio wall in a photograph dated to 1949. Shortly after this picture was taken, the work passed into the esteemed collection of Fernand Graindorge.
HENRI MATISSE AT THE HÔTEL REGINA 1949, PHOTOGRAPH BY CLIFFORD COFFIN. THE PRESENT
WORK IS PINNED TO THE WALL SECOND FROM THE LEFT.
Born in Ukraine in 1903 to a successful Industrialist father, Graindorge moved to Liège in 1913 and there grew up into a canny businessman. He showed a knack for commerce and quickly made a fortune in construction and transport. At the age of twenty, with income to spare, he purchased his first work of art: a sculpture by Jean Arp. This triggered a trend and passion that would consume him for the rest of his life: he collected unceasingly for the next 60 years, during which hundreds of works, by some 270 artists, passed through his hands.
Graindorge was intuitive and procured works on the criterion of the visceral reaction they elicited from him: he would only select works which intrigued him and caused him near-on apprehension – if he understood the work and its point, it was of no interest to him (“...uniquement des œuvres qui m’intriguent et me causent du souci et dès que je crois comprendre l’œuvre et déceler le message du peintre, la toile ne m’intéresse plus du tout !” quoted in Guy Duplat, “Serial collectionneur” in La Libre.be, IPM, 18th November 2009).
PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION, SPAIN, HENRI MATISSE, TÊTE, MARIE JOSÉ.
ESTIMATE £250,000 — 350,000.
Though undeniably privileged with an eye for art, Graindorge also had a searing mind for business and was determined to crown Liège as the leading exponent of contemporary art in Belgium. In 1945, astutely aware that relations with international patrons could only be in the country’s best interests, he founded the Association pour le Progrès Intellectual et Artistique de la Wallonie (APIAW), an institution whose sole purpose was to organise exhibitions of Belgian and International artists in Liège and still exists to this day.
For decades, Graindorge set the pace and tone of the art scene in Liège, and succeeded in establishing his beloved home province as the epicentre of contemporary art in Belgium. In 1981, a few years before his death, Graindorge donated 66 paintings and four sculptures from his extraordinary collection to the French- speaking community of Belgium. Though two works on paper by Matisse were among this donation, the present work was not. Graindorge instead had earlier selected this work from his collection to be the wedding gift of choice to the parents of the present owners, a testament to an enduringly passionate collector and compassionate man.