This ink drawing is part of the Odalisques series, painted in Matisse’s improvised studio at the Hôtel de la Méditerranée in Nice where he created an evocative and stimulating oriental décor : “The painter’s artistic imagination liked to awaken to the sound of this chamber music composed of one or two figures (“figurantes” would be more precise ) in an interior. If their nudity exalts him, he bitterly likes to decorate them with ornaments – scarves, mantillas, strange hairdos, trousers that match their skin – and to dress them in a certain oriental luxury. There is a touch of the Oriental indeed in this man from the North. It is as a true egoist that he appropriates these living creatures conceived of almost as objects that he observes, less for themselves than for the demonstration and visual pleasure that he wished to draw for them as a pretext in order to affirm himself.” (Raymond Escholier, Matisse. Ce vivant, Paris, 1956, p.124).
Although drawn without trace of austerity, decorated with patterns which were soon to become essential (observe for example the stylized flowers of the model’s blouse), Odalisque étendue is different from previous drawings in its sketching and assertiveness characteristic of the way in which Matisse worked and mentally drew line at the end of the 1930s: “These drawings are always preceded by studies made with a medium less rigorous than the line, with charcoal for example or shading, which means that the character of the model, her human expression can be considered simultaneously with the quality of light that surrounds her, her atmosphere, and everything that cannot be expressed by drawing. And it is only when I have the feeling of being exhausted by this work, which can last for several sessions, that my mind clears and I can let my pen flow with confidence.” (quoted in Pierre Schneider, Matisse, Paris, 1984, p.578).
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