- Henri Matisse
- ÉTUDE POUR 'NU ROSE'
- signed Henri Matisse and dated 14/IX 35 (lower right)
- charcoal on paper
- 49.5 by 65.5cm.
- 19 1/2 by 25 3/4 in.
Galerie G. Cramer, Geneva
Private Collection, Switzerland (acquired from the above circa 1974; sale: Christie's, New York, 9th May 2001, lot 22)
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner
Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Matisse: His Art and His Public, New York, 1951, p. 247
Lydia Delectorskaya, ...L'apparente facilité ..., Peintures de 1935-1939, Paris, 1986, illustrated p. 65
This sophisticated drawing of a reclining nude is a study for Matisse's famous oil Nu rose (fig. 1), now in the Baltimore Museum of Art. Between 1st May and 30th October 1935, Matisse made several charcoal sketches of his Russian model, Lydia Delectorskaya, as she posed for this grand composition. This was Matisse's first significant project with Lydia, who proved to be a patient sitter and dutiful studio assistant throughout the six-month process. A photograph from around this time shows Lydia herself working on the canvas during one of its many stages of completion (fig. 4). Matisse documented his work's progress from early May until end of October in twenty-two photographs, but his related drawings allow us an insight into his creative process and show him veering off in different stylistic directions from his evolving oil composition.
Executed on 14th September, the present work shows the model reclining in a twisted pose, her head turned towards the viewer. The drawing most closely resembles the oil at an earlier stage in May (fig. 2), before Matisse relaxed his model's pose for the final versions of the painting. He must have found the contortion of the body more suitable when he rendered it in charcoal than in oil, and we can only guess that its impact may not have translated onto the canvas as beautifully has it has here. The sculptural quality of the figure in this drawing is unmistakable, and is reminiscent of Matisse's sculpture from 1927, Nu couché II (fig. 3). The model's position is also evocative of his oil Nu bleu of 1907, in the collection of the Baltimore Museum of Art, and its obvious relationship with these earlier works shows how Matisse drew from his own personal lexicon of imagery at later points in his career.
In her recent biography on Matisse, Hilary Spurling provides the following description of Matisse's process while rendering this image: 'The model remained absolutely still throughout. It was Matisse who manipulated the arms and legs, pushing elements of his relatively simple composition to the furthest limits of distortion, but never losing contact with the reality represented by Lydia posing for him on a blue-and-white checkered coverlet with legs bent and one arm folded behind her head. ("My pose didn't change,' she said; 'it was comfortable and always the same")' (H. Spurling, Matisse the Master, New York, 2005, p. 360).