Adolph Lewisohn, New York (by 1931)
Samuel A. Lewisohn, New York (inherited from the above)
Private Collection, New York
Stephen Hahn, New York
Acquired from the above on January 17, 1980
Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, Henri Matisse, 1931, no. 113 (as dating from 1924)
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Lewisohn Collection, 1951, no. 51 (as dating from 1924)
Albert C. Barnes and Violette de Mazia, The Art of Henri Matisse, Pennsylvania, 1933, no. 151, catalogued p. 444
Guy-Patrice and Michel Dauberville, Henri Matisse: Chez Bernheim-Jeune, vol. 2, Paris, 1995, no. 364, illustrated p. 839
Matisse had moved to Nice at the end of 1917, and, for the rest of his life, he would spend the greater part of his time there. The present work is a particularly strong example of the Nice period, with its lovely subject, bright color and infusion of light. The model gazes confidently at the viewer, completely at ease with herself. Matisse has carefully painted her luminous skin, capturing the sun-kissed tones which are further accentuated by the chartreuse and yellow textiles. Matisse also paid careful attention to the diaphanous curtains and patterned wallpaper, which serve as an elegant backdrop for the seated woman.
Many of the works from the first years in Nice are, as John Elderfield has described them, “harmonious, light-filled, and often profusely decorated interiors, with languorous and seductive models, that sacrificed the interest of the avant-garde, an interest he regained only slowly in later years. Matisse rejoiced in the light of Nice; color was subordinated to it. Thus, the flat, arbitrary colors of his preceding paintings, both 'decorative’ and 'experimental,' were replaced by a much broader range of soft tonalities that convey how reflected light will suffuse an interior, associating whoever or whatever is within it. Light is almost palpable in these paintings. Their sensuality and the quality of meditation they afford both depend on the gentle pulsation of light through them. Often, the pulsation of pattern will form an accompaniment” (John Elderfield, Henri Matisse A Retrospective (exhibition catalogue), The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1992-93, p. 289).
After a sojourn in England, Matisse returned to Nice in late 1920 and found himself in need of a new model. The sitter in the present work is most likely the sister of Antoinette Arnoud, the woman who posed for Matisse during the previous two years. As with Nu au peigne espagnol, assis devant une fenêtre à voilages from the Cone Collection at the Baltimore Museum of Art, (see fig. 1), Matisse has focused intently on the model while her surroundings become a backdrop. According to Jack Cowart, Matisse “…posed this woman in various ways: with her hair held by a tall Spanish comb, wearing tasseled shawls, an ample striped robe, in a ruffled blouse, or nude, draped simply with a celery-colored cloth. These works mark Matisse’s growing commitment to the theme of the model posed against a room interior or window-landscape view” (Jack Cowart, “The Place of Silvered Light: An Expanded, Illustrated Chronology of Matisse in the South of France, 1916-1932,” Henri Matisse: The Early Years in Nice 1916-1932 (exhibition catalogue), Washington, National Gallery of Art, 1987, p. 25)
In its relative austerity and intense focus on the model, Nu au fauteuil jambes croisées is reminiscent of Lorette sur fond noir, robe verte from 1916 (see fig. 2). It is a fascinating example of the way in which, despite apparent differences in the appearance of his work, Matisse retained his commitment to draftsmanship and formal values, however “decorative” they might appear to be. In many respects the present work presages the highly decorative works which follow. Unlike Lorette sur fond noir of 1916, Matisse has incorporated the patterned wall paper in the present work, yet it has no color. Just months later, however, the patterns and colors of the background will virtually overwhelm the female subject, as with Le paravent mauresque (see fig. 3).
Throughout the 1920s, Matisse would continue to paint variations on the theme of the model seated in the armchair. Many of these scenes were set in his hotel room in Nice, with a window in the background that overlooked the Mediterranean. While this work provides no such view, it does demonstrate the artist's focus on the grace and beauty of the female body in repose.
Fig. 1. Henri Matisse, Nu au peigne espagnol, assis devant une fenêtre à voilages, 1920, oil on canvas, Baltimore Museum of Art, Cone Collection
Fig. 2. Henri Matisse, Lorette sur fond noir, robe verte, 1916, oil on canvas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection
Fig. 3. Henri Matisse, Le paravent mauresque, 1921, oil on canvas, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Bequest of Lisa Norris Elkins
Fig. 4, Photograph of Matisse with one of his models in the 1920s
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?Watch Live Sale