Lot 5
  • 5

Henri Matisse

300,000 - 400,000 GBP
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  • Henri Matisse
  • Deux femmes assises
  • signed Henri Matisse (lower right) and dated 12.VI.38 (lower left)
  • charcoal and estompe on paper
  • 60 by 40cm.
  • 23 5/8 by 15 3/4 in.


Estate of the artist

Pierre Matisse, New York (the artist's son; by descent from the above)

Private Collection, New York

Acquavella Galleries, New York

Acquired from the above by the previous owner in May 2001


Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Henri Matisse: Dessins et Sculpture, 1975, no. 104, illustrated in the catalogue

Paris, Musée Jacquemart-André, La Passion du Dessin. Collection Jan et Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, 2002, no. 149, illustrated in colour the catalogue

Vienna, Albertina, Goya bis Picasso. Meisterwerke der Sammlung Jan Krugier und Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, 2005, no. 117, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Munich, Kunsthalle der Hypo-Kulturstiftung, Das Ewige Auge - Von Rembrandt bis Picasso. Meisterwerke aus der Sammlung Jan Krugier und Marie-Anne Krugier-Poniatowski, 2007, no. 150, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Madrid, Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Matisse 1917-1941, 2009, no. 59, illustrated in colour in the catalogue


Christian Zervos, 'Dessins récents de Henri Matisse', in Cahiers d'Art, 1939, illustrated p. 9

Lydia Delectorskaya, …l’apparente facilité… Henri Matisse, Peintures de 1935-1939, Paris, 1986, illustrated p. 264



Executed on cream wove paper hinged to the mount at the top two corners. There are artist's pin holes in all four corners. There is a small spot of discolouration on the lower right corner and the centre of the right edge. Apart from some slight discolouration to the edges, this work is in very good condition. Colours: Overall fairly accurate in the printed catalogue illustration, although the paper tone is less yellow and the charcoal slightly richer in the original.
"In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue.

Catalogue Note

A combination of graceful, restrained lines and sensuously blended charcoal, Deux femmes assises is a wonderful example of Matisse’s mature drawing style. Throughout the 1930s Matisse drew extensively, developing the estompe technique. This use of charcoal enabled Matisse to embue his works with a masterful blend of smoky shadow and tremulous luminosity. The technique, which he used throughout his career, freed Matisse from the rigours of strict representation, creating a looser physicality that became an expression of feeling. He commented that for him drawing did ‘not depend on forms being copied exactly as they are in nature or on the patient assembling of exact details, but on the profound feeling of the artist before the objects that he has chosen, on which his attention is focussed, and whose spirit he has penetrated’ (quoted in Jack Flam (ed.), Matisse on Art, Berkeley, 1995, p. 179).

Executed in the summer of 1938, Deux Femmes assises is one of a series of drawings on a similar theme that Matisse produced between 7th May and 12th June of that year. These drawings illustrate the fluidity of Matisse’s technique; in each one the composition of the figures is the same, but Matisse experiments with the curving arabesques of the drawn lines and the intensity of the blended charcoal. It seems likely that these three drawings were part of a larger group of works that Matisse produced as he began on the designs for Le Chant (fig. 1), the over-mantel decoration that he made for the apartment of Nelson Rockefeller in New York and which was finished later the same year. Although Matisse didn’t decisively begin work on Le Chant until the autumn of 1938, these works (and others from earlier that year) have compositional similarities with his later studies and suggest that he was already experimenting with the arrangement of this pair. If this is the case, it is probable that the two women of Deux Femmes assises were also Lydia Delectorskaya and her friend Hélène Galitzine, who were the models for the later designs.