Lot 8
  • 8

Henri Matisse

20,000,000 - 30,000,000 USD
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  • Henri Matisse
  • La Séance du matin
  • Signed Henri Matisse (lower right)
  • Oil on canvas
  • 29 1/8 by 24 in.
  • 74 by 61 cm


Valentine Dudensing, New York (acquired from the artist)

Stephen C. Clark, New York

Mr. & Mrs. Maurice Newton, New York

Frederick M. Peyser, New York

Estate of Frederick M. Peyser, New York (sold: Sotheby's, New York, May 13, 1986, lot 42)

Private Collection (acquired from the above)

Acquavella Galleries, New York

Acquired from the above in 1996


Paris, Pavillon Bernheim-Jeune, Exposition des Arts Décoratifs, 1924

Paris, Salon des Tuileries, Salon d'Autome, 1925, no. 614 or 615

New York, Acquavella Galleries, Henri Matisse, 1973, no. 32, illustrated in color in the catalogue

Paris, Centre National d'Art et de Culture Georges Pompidou & Moscow, Ministry of Culture of the USSR, Paris-Moscou 1900-1930, 1979, no. 222, illustrated in the catalogue

Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, Henri Matisse: The Early Years in Nice, 1916-1930, 1986-87, no. 131, illustrated in color in the catalogue


Philippe Marcel, "Henri Matisse," L'Art d'aujourd'hui, I, Summer 1924, illustrated in color pl. XXIX

Bernheim-Jeune, ed., Le Bulletin de la vie artistique, Paris, 1925, illustrated

Waldemar George, "Le Salon d'Automne," L'Amour de l'Art,  Paris, September 1925, illustrated p. 353

Adolphe Basler, "Das Formproblem der Malerei seit Cézanne," Kunst und Kunstler, October 1930, illustrated p. 27

Jean H. Lipman, "Matisse Paintings in the Stephen C. Clark Collection," Art in America, New York, October 1934, illustrated p. 143

Jean Guichard-Meili, Henri Matisse, son oeuvre, son univers, Paris, 1967, illustrated pp. 89 & 98

Mario Luzi & Massimo Carra, L'Opera di Matisse dalla rivolta fauvre all'intimismo 1904-1928, Milan, 1971, no. 396, (illustrated as dating from 1923)

Pierre Schneider, Massimo Carra & Xavier Derying, Tout l'oeuvre peint de Matisse, 1904-1928, Paris, 1982, no. 396, illustrated

Pierre Schneider, Matisse, Paris, 1984, pp. 426, 510-511

Guy-Patrice & Michel Dauberville, Matisse, vol. II, Paris, no. 635, illustrated p. 1225

Martine Blanche, Poétique des tableaux chez Proust et Matisse, Paris, 1996, discussed p. 86


Very good condition. The canvas is lined. There is no evidence of retouching visible under ultra-violet light.
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.

Catalogue Note

Resplendent with the morning light of the Mediterranean, The stunning Séance du matin captures the daily routine of the artist's studio in the south of France.  The model for this picture was Henriette Darricarrère, Matisse's studio assistant whose own interest in painting he encouraged by offering her lessons during their working time together.  The scene depicts Henriette at work on her own painting, but the focus, of course, is on Matisse's composition here. 

The picture boasts all of the key elements of the Nice-period paintings, with its colorful patterning and gleeming white highlights. Clear and brilliant daylight streams through the window, casting shadows on the floor around the furniture.  What is particularly extraordinary here is Matisse's bold and deliberate interplay of vertical and horizontal lines, which he most prominently exploits by juxtaposing the sitter's striped dress against the louvered window shutter.  While in the companion work La Séance de trois heures, now in the collection of New York's Metropolitan Museum, Matisse depicts a nude model alongside the studious painter, the present composition features the painter alone, absorbed in her own work.  

Matisse completed the canvas at his studio at Place Charles-Félix in Nice, where Henriette posed for him under a variety of pretexts, including playing the piano or violin, reading, playing checkers and painting at an easel.  In most of these compositions Matisse positions his model against the large French window, either partially-shuttered, curtained or completely unobstructed, in order to explore the properties of light and its interplay with the objects and occupants of the studio.   Light in this picture has a clear physical presence and affects everything that crosses its path.  In her essay on Matisse's use of windows, Shirley Neilsen Blum has noted that "although he sought to represent an overall illumination in his work, it was not that of the momentary effects of sunlight so loved by the Impressionists.  Whether as an undefined slice of colour or as an iridescence seeming to radiate from the canvas itself, Matisse represented light through the intensity of his palette and through splinters of exposed white canvas.  The reoccuring primed surface enhanced both the sense of illumination arising from within the painting and the two dimensionality of the subject"  (S. Neilsen Blum, Henri Matisse, Rooms with a View, London, 2010, p. 14).

"Expression, for me, does not reside in passions bursting from a human face or manifest by violent movement," Matisse once explained. "The entire arrangement of my picture is expressive:  the place occupied by the figures, the empty spaces around them, the proportions, all of that has its share.  Composition is the art of arranging in a decorative manner the diverse elements at the painters' command to express his feelings"  (Henri Matisse, quoted in op. cit., p. 107).  We can see that in the present work, Matisse strategically arranged the composition to maximize the visual dynamism of the scene.  The outline of each object in the room is overlapped by another, and through this interweaving of imagery Matisse has created a seamlessness to the composition and linked disparate elements.  Interior and exterior space are united through the window, and the beauty of the outside world is integrated with the man-made splendor of the artist's studio. 

For Matisse, like Johannes Vermeer, the window played a key role in his paintings, both as a source of light and as a link to the greater world beyond it.  "Instead of suggesting escape," Blum explains in her essay, "Matisse's windows look out on subjects that speak to beauty of creation - perhaps a garden, a landscape, a great cathedral, an expanse of water, a lively tree.  Although they repeatedly join two worlds, those of man and nature, Matisse insisted that the interior and the exterior - the room and its view - made up a single unified whole.  Rather than an enticement to the outer world, the windows return the viewer to the interior scene, a process sometimes aided by a figure that unexpectedly looks towards the viewer as opposed to outward to the view.  Such windows enrich the mood and moderate the static confinement implicit in a closed room"  (ibid., p. 13).     

In 1924, the same year that Matisse painted the present composition, Henriette developed terrible stage fright and gave up her musical pursuits.  She focused her artistic attention instead on painting, and eventually her work was accepted into the Salon des Indépendants in Paris.  The present work commemorates Henriette's first serious efforts at this new calling, and it has gone on to become one of Matisse's most beloved canvases from this period.  We know from the Bernheim-Jeune archive that the present painting remained with Matisse until at least July 1925.  Not long after that it was sent to New York to the Valentine Dudensing Gallery, where the artist's son Pierre was getting his start as an art dealer before forming his own gallery in 1931. 

The picture next came into the possession of Stephen C. Clark, the American newspaper publisher and founder of the baseball hall of fame in Cooperstown, New York.  Having inherited much of his wealth as an heir to the Singer Sewing Machine Company, Clark was best know for his exceptional collection. Upon his death in 1960, Clark bequeathed several of his pictures to his alma mater Yale University and to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Among these works were Cézanne's The Card Players and Seurat's The Circus Sideshow.  Clark's highly avant-garde taste for bold and expressive color was evidenced by his ownership of Van Gogh's The Night Café, now at the Yale University Art Gallery, and also by the present work, which he acquired directly from Valentine Dudensing at some point between 1926 and 1931.