Lot 2
  • 2

Henri Matisse

180,000 - 250,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Henri Matisse
  • signed Henri Matisse and dated 11/38 (lower right)
  • charcoal on paper
  • 51 by 66cm.
  • 20 1/8 by 26in.


Estate of the artist
Private Collection, France
Waddington Galleries, London
Private Collection, USA (acquired from the above)
Waddington Galleries, London
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2006


Christian Zervos, 'Dessins récents de Henri Matisse', in Cahiers d'Art, Paris, 1939, no. 1-4, illustrated p. 18
Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Matisse: His Art and His Public, New York, 1951, illustrated p. 478
Lydia Delectorskaya, L'Apparent facilité. Henri Matisse: peintures de 1935-1939, Paris, 1986, illustrated p. 282

Catalogue Note

Matisse executed this elegant charcoal drawing as a study for Le Chant (fig. 1), a monumental decorative panel that he was commissioned to paint for Nelson A. Rockefeller's New York apartment. Matisse started work on the mantelpiece on 16th November, and completed it on 3rd December, and his progress was documented in a series of photographs (L. Delectorskaya, op. cit., pp. 283-287). The artist began working on the preliminary studies soon after moving into his new apartment and studio in the Hôtel Regina in Nice. From the outset of the project he was meticulous in his planning and execution, carefully considering every colour and detail of the final oil. He developed a composition with four female figures whose bodies would frame the contours of the fireplace, and used his two favourite models – Lydia Delectorskaya and Hélène Galitzine – to pose for them.  


The present drawing depicts the two girls who occupy the lower part of the final composition, one of them singing and the other one resting on the surface of the 'real' fireplace, her eyes closed as she is captivated by the music. Whilst this work was executed as a study for the larger painting, its fullness of composition and attention to finish make it an outstanding drawing in its own right. The charcoal lines are enriched with the estompe technique, giving the figures a strong, almost sculptural presence. During the 1920s and 1930s, charcoal and estompe became Matisse's preferred medium when working on paper, using erasure to remove the rough charcoal surface and to create texture. In his article Notes d'un peintre sur son dessin published in 1939, Matisse described the advantages of this particular medium which allowed him, he wrote, 'to consider simultaneously the character of the model, the human expression, the quality of surrounding light, atmosphere and all that can be expressed by drawing' (quoted in John Elderfield, The Drawings of Henri Matisse, London, 1984, p. 84).

Fig. 1, Henri Matisse, Le Chant, 1938, oil on canvas, commissioned by Nelson A. Rockefeller, New York