Signed and dated Haiti/Mars 43/H. Matisse (lower right)
India ink on paper
The authenticity of this work has kindly been confirmed by Mme. Wanda de Guébriant.
Aimé Maeght, Paris
Private Collection, France
Thence by descent to the present owner
For the first half of 1943 Matisse was still in Nice, at the Hôtel Régina, awaiting the order to be evacuated as Nice was a potential target for bombardment. It was an important year for the development of his late work as he began to work on the paper cutouts that were eventually to become the book, Jazz. He also hired a young woman as his nurse, Monique Bourgeois, who was later to become Sister Jacques of the Dominican Nuns at Vence and played an important role in the development of the Vence Chapel. To fill in the time before the move to the villa “Le Rêve” at Vence, Matisse made a number of drawings after a model known as Carmen who came from Haiti.
Carmen was one of a number of models from the Caribbean and Africa who posed for Matisse between 1943 and 1946. In addition to the series of fourteen etchings dating from 1946 of La Martiniquaise, Matisse used models from Madagascar and the Congo. Carmen was still posing for Matisse in 1946 when Helene Adnant took a series of photographs of Matisse drawing her and a model from Madagascar (see Aragon, Henri Matisse A Novel, New York, 1971, illustrated pp. 253-266). Her features were also the inspiration for one of the four female faces used to illustrate the Fleurs du Mal by Baudelaire published in 1947. Matisse chose Carmen for poems evoking passion and exotic beauty, including “Parfum exotique” and “Sed non satiata.”
The present work is closely related to another drawing from the same series sold at Sotheby’s on November 9, 2000, differing primarily in the pose, full face in the former and three-quarters profile turned to the right in the latter. In both works the riotous patterning of the paisley dress, the rattan chair and the philodendron leaves in the background is secondary to the imposing presence of the sitter. As Matisse commented “The jewels or the arabesques never overwhelm my drawings from the model, because these jewels and arabesques form part of my orchestration. Well placed, they suggest the form or the value accents necessary to the composition of the drawing. Here I recall a doctor who said to me. 'When one looks at your drawing, one is astonished to see how well you know the anatomy.’ For him, my drawings, in which movement was expressed by a logical rhythm of lines, suggested the play of muscles in action” (Henri Matisse, Notes of a Painter on his Drawing, first published in Le Point, Paris, July, 1939, translated by Jack D. Flam, ed., Matisse in Art, Oxford, 1978, pp.81-82)
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