Lot 2
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HENRI MATISSE | Portrait of Mrs Hutchinson

2,000,000 - 3,000,000 GBP
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  • Henri Matisse
  • Portrait of Mrs Hutchinson
  • signed Henri Matisse and dated 36 (lower left)
  • charcoal and estompe on paper
  • 66 by 50cm.
  • 26 by 19 5/8 in.
  • Executed in 1936.


Mr & Mrs St John Hutchinson, London (commissioned from the artist in 1936) Thence by decent to the present owners


London, Tate Gallery; San Marino, California, The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens & New Haven, Yale Center for British Art, The Art of Bloomsbury: Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, 1999-2000, no. 173, illustrated in the catalogue


Letter from Henri Matisse to St John Hutchinson, 12th August 1936 Pierre Schneider, Matisse, London, 1984, illustrated p. 580

Richard Shone, 'Matisse in England and Two English Sitters', in The Burlington Magazine, vol. 135, no. 1084, July 1993, fig. 38, illustrated p. 481

Catherine C. Bock-Weiss, Henri Matisse: A Guide to Research, New York & London, 1996, no. 1039, mentioned p. 330

Hilary Spurling, Matisse The Master, London, 2005, mentioned p. 371

Charles James: Beyond Fashion (exhibition catalogue), The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2014, fig. 14, illustrated p. 25 

Catalogue Note

‘[Matisse’s] pictures increasingly hung on the walls of the rich, smart and sophisticated, from David Tennant to the Clarks, the young Rothschilds and cultivated hostesses like Mrs. St. John Hutchinson […]. “In spite of all people say, I think he’s delightful,” said Mary Hutchinson.’ Hilary Spurling, Matisse The Master, London, 2005, p. 371



The subject of this magnificent portrait is Mary Hutchinson, a British writer, member of the Bloomsbury group, as well as a model and socialite. Born Mary Barnes in India and raised in Florence, in 1909 she moved to London, and the following year married the barrister St John Hutchinson, known as Jack. Shortly after her arrival in London, Mary was introduced to the Bloomsbury group through her cousin Duncan Grant and would soon become the lover of Clive Bell. Sharing with her husband a passion for art, she became a fashionable hostess, organising soirées at their London homes which were attended by the noted painters and writers of the day.


Richard Shone wrote: ‘Slim, poised, fashionably dressed, well read, she was introduced by Clive Bell to avant-garde painting and literature; she became a patron of the Omega Workshops, owned paintings by Gertler and Grant, Marchand, Derain and Matisse. Her taste for recent art was shared with her husband who was a valued supporter of the Contemporary Art Society. She was the friend and confidante of T.S. Eliot, Aldous Huxley, Osbert Sitwell and, years later, Samuel Beckett. […] Mary Hutchinson’s relations with Bloomsbury were not plain sailing; her social life was luxuriously fashionable compared with Bloomsbury’s more unadorned society. But she maintained cordial friendships within the circle and with Virginia Woolf developed a curiously passionate if wary friendship which intensified in later years’ (R. Shone in The Art of Bloomsbury: Roger Fry, Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant (exhibition catalogue), op. cit., p. 103).


The present work was created in Matisse’s Paris studio in June 1936, and the sitting was arranged by the artist’s son-in-law Georges Duthuit, who was a writer and friend of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant. Matisse, who often chose specific costumes for his sitters, depicted Mary Hutchinson wearing a blouse by the British-born designer Charles James. The sitting resulted in two portraits of Mrs Hutchinson: Matisse kept one for himself, and the present one - the more elaborate of the two - was bought by the sitter, and has remained in her family to the present day. St John and Mary Hutchinson both admired Matisse’s art and owned his oil Intérieur à Nice, now in the collection of the Saint Louis Art Museum. On seeing his latest canvases during an exhibition at Paul Rosenberg’s gallery in May 1936, Mary described them as ‘little tiny brilliant pictures like jewels, […] just larger than the side of a book – a woman’s head – a figure – with stripes and flowers – but unbelievably brilliant’ (quoted in H. Spurling, op. cit., p. 372).

The present work was inherited by the sitter’s son, Jeremy Hutchinson, later to become Lord Hutchinson of Lullington, QC. A renowned criminal barrister, Lord Hutchinson’s long career at the bar was abruptly postponed at its outset by the beginning of the second world war, throughout which he served with distinction in the Royal Navy. In the decades that followed, Lord Hutchinson became one of Britain’s most esteemed lawyers, defending Christine Keeler and Howard Marks as well as the publication of D. H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley’s Lover in a long career of watershed legal cases and causes célèbres. Lord Hutchinson was also a passionate promoter of the arts, becoming a trustee and later Chairman of  the Tate Gallery from 1980-84 as well as Vice-Chairman of the Arts Council of Great Britain from 1974-79.


In this beautiful portrait Matisse has enriched the charcoal lines with the estompe technique, giving the figure a strong presence combined with delicate lines that define her face, costume and details of the interior. During the 1920s and 1930s, charcoal and estompe became Matisse’s preferred medium when working on paper, using erasure to remove the rough charcoal surface and to create texture. In his article Notes d’un peintre sur son dessin published in 1939, Matisse described the advantages of this particular medium which allowed him, he wrote, ‘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 John Elderfield, The Drawings of Henri Matisse, London, 1984, p. 84).

The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by Wanda de Guébriant, who will issue a certificate at buyer's request.