Lot 3
  • 3

Henri Matisse

300,000 - 500,000 USD
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  • Henri Matisse
  • Tête de femme
  • Signed H Matisse and dated 50 (lower right)
  • Charcoal and estompe on paper
  • 20 3/4 by 15 7/8 in.
  • 52.7 by 40.3 cm


Félix Vercel, Paris

Galerie Félix Vercel, Paris

Les Modernes, Paris

C&M Arts, New York

Acquired from the above in 1998


Montreuil, France, 100ème anniversaire de la Confédération générale du travail, 1995, n.n.

Catalogue Note

Executed in 1950, Matisse’s elegant rendering of a female sitter in Tête de femme was completed at a point in his career when he had all but abandoned oil painting in favor of cut-outs. His drawings from this period show his clear preference for linear compositions, as evidenced by the precision of the line used to render the model's features. In the present work, we can see how he has confidently applied his medium with smooth, sweeping gestures, while shading certain areas with an estompe technique to create shadow and definition in the flesh.

In his article Notes d'un peintre sur son dessin published in 1939, Matisse described the advantages of this particular medium which allowed him “to consider simultaneously the character of the model, the human expression, the quality of surrounding light, atmosphere and all that can be expressed by drawing” (quoted in J. Elderfield, The Drawings of Henri Matisse, London, 1984, p. 84). Elderfield notes that the medium of charcoal and estompe were "especially attractive to [Matisse]... Both media were particularly suited to investigation of how tonal modelling could be reconciled with his longstanding concern for the decorative flatness of the picture surface. They permitted him to create an extraordinarily wide range of soft, closely graded tones, ranging from transparent, aerated greys to dense and sooty blacks, that appear to adhere to the flatness of the sheet, and to release especially subtle effects of light from the luminous whiteness of the paper. What is more, the volumes thus created stay 'light' in feeling despite their solidity, and it was this 'light', disembodied sense of volume that he sought in his painting too” (ibid., pp. 84-85).