Lot 11
  • 11

Henri Matisse

3,500,000 - 5,000,000 GBP
2,613,000 GBP
bidding is closed


  • Henri Matisse
  • Interiéur à Nice, femme assise avec un livre
  • signed Henri Matisse (lower right)
  • oil on canvas


Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris (acquired from the artist on 14th June 1921)

Jacques Laroche, Paris (acquired from the above on 19th June 1923)

Etienne Bignou, Paris & New York

Mr & Mrs R. Sturgis Ingersoll, Penllyn, Pennsylvania (acquired by 1930)

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia (a gift from the above in 1945)

Acquavella Galleries, New York (acquired from the above on 21st June 1995)

Private Collection, South America (acquired from the above. Sold: Sotheby’s, New York, 8th May 2002, lot 30)

Purchased at the above sale by the late owner


London, The Lefevre Gallery, Exhibition of Works by Henri Matisse, 1927, no. 15

New York, C. W. Kraushaar Art Galleries, Exhibition of Modern French Paintings, Watercolors and Drawings, 1927, no. 10, illustrated in the catalogue

New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Henri Matisse, 1931, no. 50, illustrated in the catalogue (as dating from circa 1919)

Providence, Rhode Island School of Design, Henri Matisse, 1931, no. 22 (titled Interior, Nice and as dating from circa 1919)

Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Loan Exhibition of Contemporary Paintings and Sculpture from the Collection of Miss Anna Warren Ingersoll and Mr. and Mrs. Sturgis Ingersoll, 1933, no. 23 (titled Interior, Nice and as dating from circa 1919)

Birmingham, Alabama, The Birmingham Museum of Art, Inaugural Exhibition, 1951

Palm Beach, Society of the Four Arts, The Art of Henri Matisse, 1953, no. 18 (titled Interior, Nice and as dating from 1919)

Birmingham, Alabama, The Birmingham Museum of Art, 10th Anniversary Exhibition, 1961

Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, Henri Matisse: The Early Years in Nice, 1986-87, no. 84, illustrated in colour in the catalogue (as dating from 1920)


Henry McBride, Matisse, New York, 1930, illustrated pl. 34

Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Matisse: His Art and His Public, New York, 1951, listed p. 558 (titled Interior at Nice and as dating from 1919)

Gaston Diehl, Henri Matisse, Paris, 1954, mentioned p. 77

Guy-Patrice & Michel Dauberville, Henri Matisse Chez Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, 1995, vol. II, no. 498, illustrated p. 1045 (titled Intérieur-Nice)

Catalogue Note

Matisse’s post-war years in Nice were marked by substantial and sometimes dazzling innovations in his art. The unique quality of the light and relative isolation of the French Riviera provided the artist with the ideal environment in which to reengage with figurative elements in his painting. Interiéur à Nice, femme assise avec un livre, executed in 1919, exhibits some of Matisse’s most crucial developments, most notably his ability to render the quality of light and harmonise bold colour planes with decorative patterns. From 1917 to 1932, Henri Matisse made annual expeditions to the south of France. These increasingly extensive trips ‘may have begun as a symbolic return to the adventures, challenges, and yearnings of his earlier years’ (J. Cowart, op. cit. (exhibition catalogue), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1986, p. 26).

During a 1943 interview with the French poet Louis Aragon, Matisse expounded on his attachment to the region: ‘Nice, why Nice? In my work, I have tried to create a translucent setting for the mind. I have found the necessary limpidity in several places around the world: New York, the South Pacific, and Nice... The painters over in New York say, How can anyone paint here, with this zinc-coloured sky? But in fact it's wonderful! Everything becomes clear, translucent, exact, limpid. Nice, in this sense, has helped me’ (quoted in Jack Flam (ed.), Matisse: A Retrospective, New York, 1988, pp. 166-167). This precise quality of the light in Nice is wonderfully apparent in Interiéur à Nice, femme assise avec un livre. The delicate palette of crocus oranges and eau-de-nile blues are simultaneously vibrant and harmonious.

The present work incorporates one of his favourite motifs – that of a model seated in a chair next to a window. This composition, which he also employed in Femme au divan of 1920 and Interiéur à Nice from circa 1919 (figs. 1 & 2), allowed him to explore the spatial dynamic of the many shapes and patterns found in the furnishings of the room and the clothes he posed his models in. Every surface is treated with subtle variations and patterns, from the bolder Eygptian curtain on the left side to the subtle interplay of white on gold wallpaper. In addition to the riotous decoration, the sitter wears a boldly striped robe. Matisse frequently embellished his models, using flamboyant headpieces which he made himself out of flowers and an inexpensive straw hat, or exotic costumes collected from Morocco and in Algiers.

The setting chosen for many of these works was most often the Hôtel de la Méditerranée, whose kitsch opulence appealed to Matisse’s love of ornamentation (figs. 3 & 4). Jack Cowart describes the hotel, and the part it played in the artist’s work: ‘[The Hôtel de la Méditerranée] would become for Matisse a most fertile, expansive environment. From the room, with its large windows, looking out over the Baie des Anges, he recorded the full sweep of the sun. The rooms were decorated in nineteenth-century Italianate styles. Matisse would artistically enlarge this hotel, its presence, its rooms, and his views well beyond their literal dimensions; he would push his art and the rhythms of its surfaces to record his new levels of excited observation. He would later say, “An old and good hotel, of course!... Do you remember the light we had through the shutters? It came from below as if from theatre footlights. Everything was fake, absurd, amazing, delicious”’ (J. Cowart, op. cit., p. 24).

Discussing his paintings from this period Matisse wrote: ‘My models, human figures, are never just 'extras' in an interior. They are the principal theme in my work. I depend entirely on my model, whom I observe at liberty, and then I decide on the pose which best suits her nature. When I take a new model, I intuit the pose that will best suit her from her un-self-conscious attitudes of repose, and then I become the slave of that pose. I often keep those girls several years, until my interest is exhausted. My plastic signs probably express their souls (a word I dislike), which interests me subconsciously, or what else is there? Their forms are not always perfect, but they are expressive. The emotional interest aroused in me by them does not appear particularly in the representation of their bodies, but often rather in the lines or the special values distributed over the whole canvas or paper, which form its complete orchestration, its architecture. But not everyone perceives this. It is perhaps sublimated sensual pleasure, which may not yet be perceived by everyone’ (quoted in Ernst Gerhard Güse, Henri Matisse, Drawings and Sculpture, Munich, 1991, p. 22).

One of the earliest owners of the present work was R. Sturgis Ingersoll and his wife Marion. A lawyer by profession, Sturgis Ingersoll belonged to a distinguished Philadelphian family which had been prominent since the Declaration of Independence. Ingersoll was a passionate supporter of the arts and in particular the Philadelphia Museum of Art of which he was a dedicated trustee and president. The Ingersolls gave the museum many works of art over the years, including Interiéur à Nice, femme assise avec un livre which remained in its collection until 1995. Their collection of modern European art contained impressive and important paintings by artists such as Delacroix, Matisse and Picasso. In 1942 Sturgis Ingersoll became friends with Jacques Lipchitz, and encouraged his attempts to sell his work in America. When Ingersoll retired from his presidency of the museum the trustees and governors commissioned a portrait bust by the sculptor for its permanent collection.