- Henri Matisse
- signed H. Matisse, dated 47 (lower left) and titled (lower right)
- brush and ink on paper
Lumley Cazalet, London
Private Collection, Europe (acquired circa 2000. Sold: Sotheby's, London, 23rd June 2010, lot 125)
Purchased at the above sale by the present owner
Henri Matisse in conversation with Louis-Bertrand Rayssiguier, Vence, 13th April 1948
In the 1940s Matisse turned again to the subject of the human face, producing a series of brush and ink drawings that are an eloquent testimony to his skills as a draughtsman. Filling the full expanse of the sheet, these exercises in portraiture reveal the artist’s ability to capture a sense of character in only a few gestural strokes of ink. Writing about his approach to drawing as early as 1939 Matisse observed: ‘In spite of the absence of shadows or half-tones expressed by hatching, I do not renounce the play of values of modulations. I modulate with variations in the weight of line, and above all with the areas it delimits on the white paper. I modify the different parts of the white paper without touching them, but by their relationships’ (quoted in Jack Flam (ed.), Matisse. A Retrospective, New York, 1988, p. 328). This remained true of his later drawings and is beautifully exemplified in the bold simplicity of work such as Jacquy.
Drawing on the purity of classical tradition, as well as the influence of japonisme and the aesthetic of calligraphy, these late works nonetheless possess a notable vigour and energy and provide an interesting counterpoint to the celebrated cutouts he was working on during this period. From his earliest days as a student of art, when drawing was primarily a means of sketching out a scene or character in situ, Matisse’s approach has been characterised by the speed and acuity with which he worked. Composed of a few, brilliantly confident lines, Jacquy reveals a spontaneity and fluidity of handling that is the hallmark of Matisse’s work in this medium and imbues even the simplest of his works with a touching expressiveness.
The subject of the present work is the artist's grand-daughter, Jacqueline Monnier Matisse, as sitter. In the final years of his life, Matisse frequently turned to family and friends as subjects and filled his rooms at the Hotel Régina with drawings, sometimes even drawing on the walls and ceiling of the room with a brush attached to a long pole. The artist once confided to one of his many visitors: ‘These are my grandchildren. I try to picture them, and when I succeed, I feel better. I have even drawn them on the ceiling in order to have them in front of me, above all during the night. That way I feel less alone’ (quoted in Matisse. Visages découverts (exhibition catalogue), Mona Bismarck American Center, Paris, 1996, p. 17, translated from French).