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Details & Cataloguing

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Henri Matisse
1869 - 1954
FENETRE OUVERTE ETRETAT
Signed Henri Matisse (lower right)

Oil on canvas


28 1/2 by 23 5/8 in.
72.4 by 60 cm

Painted in 1920.


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Provenance

Bernheim-Jeune, Paris (acquired from the artist on October 6, 1920)

Paul Rosenberg, Paris (acquired from the above on November 8, 1920 and confiscated in 1940)

Max Stoecklin (acquired in Paris in 1942)

André Martin, Galerie Neupert, Zürich

Paul Rosenberg, New York (recovered circa 1946 and sold: Christie's, London, June 20, 1976, lot 264)

Private Collection (acquired at the above sale and sold: Sotheby's, London, June 24, 1996, lot 48)

Private Collection (acquired at the above sale and sold: Sotheby's, New York, November 7, 2001, lot 23)

Acquired at the above sale by the present owner

Exhibited

Paris, Galerie Georges Petit , Henri Matisse, 1931, no. 80

New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Henri Matisse, His Art and His Public, 1951

Literature

Raymond Escholier, Henri Matisse, 1937, illustrated p. 27

Gaston Diehl, Henri Matisse, Paris, 1954, no. 88, illustrated (with incorrect measurements)

Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Matisse, His Art and His Public, 1951, p. 209

Guy-Patrice and Michel Dauberville, Matisse chez Bernheim-Jeune, vol. I, Paris, 1995, no. 80, illustrated p. 227; vol. II, no. 413, illustrated p. 908

Catalogue Note

Described by Alfred H. Barr, Jr. as “among the most distinguished of the interiors which Matisse painted at Etretat”, this picture was executed during the artist’s first summer at the Normandy fishing village in 1920. Barr writes of this period, “During the years 1920-25, Matisse worked with unabated energy, producing scores of paintings and hundreds of drawings. The paintings are for the most part of a conveniently modest size, pleasant in subject matter and more conventionally realistic in style than any body of work he had produced since 1904, without at the same time sacrificing decorative charm... There are many paintings in which daring combinations of patterns and (less daring) of colors are achieved with a virtuosity beyond the powers of any living artist. For many this period is the most attractive and satisfactory in Matisse’s entire career” (Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Matisse, His Art and His Public, New York, 1951, pp. 208-09).

The theme of an open window in Matisse’s oeuvre can be seen as early as 1905 when he was taken with the view out the window of his apartment in Collioure, on the Southern coast of France (see fig. 1). This compositional structure allows Matisse to create a framed image of a landscape within a painting of an interior view. This type of staging draws the viewer’s attention from the comfortable interior setting through the inviting open window out into the open expanse, as if both the artist and his viewer are longing to break from the constraints of civilization. He employed the imagery of the open window throughout his years in Nice (see figs. 2 and 3) and Etretat, relishing the colorful and dynamic coastal expanse that lay beyond the window. In the present work, as well as other paintings from his summer in Etretat (see fig. 4), Matisse enhances the exterior landscape with elements particular to fishing villages.

It is tempting to speculate that Charles Vildrac had the present picture in mind when writing in October 1920 of a visit to Matisse at the seaside: “You awaken in a half-darkened room...and you run to push the shutters open with hope ...You experience at once both the light and the landscape, unable to disassociate them. The impalpable gauze that here and there finishes drying and polishing the sky, the beach, the cliffs, the horizon, the boat resting on the pebbles...you see all that in a single absolutely simple image. Thus do Matisse’s landscapes appear to me: and thus it seems, did Nature appear to him , touched by the miracle of a sudden rediscovered light, the miracle lies in the painter’s vision and in the power that he has to reproduce it” (Charles Vildrac, “Henri Matisse”, Exposition Henri Matisse (exhibition catalogue), Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris 1920).

It is uncertain whether the present picture was shown in the Bernheim-Jeune exhibition referred to above. The gallery acquired the painting directly from the artist on October 6, 1920. However, Paul Rosenberg bought it shortly after, on November 8, possibly pre-empting its inclusion in the Bernheim-Jeune exhibition a week later.

 

Fig. 1, View from Matisse’s window out onto the harbor of Collioure

Fig. 2, Henri Matisse, Ma chambre au Beau-Rivage, 1917-18, oil on canvas, Philadelphia Museum of Art, A.E. Gallatin Collection.

Fig. 3, Henri Matisse, Intérieur à la boîte à violon, 1918-1919, oil on canvas, Museum of Modern Art, New York

Fig. 4, Henri Matisse, Le 14 Juillet 1920 – Etretat, 1920, oil on canvas laid down on board, sold: Sotheby’s, London, February 5, 2002, lot 17

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