In an interview with Louis Aragon, Matisse states: ‘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. If I had painted in the north, as I did thirty years ago, my painting would have been different. There would have been browns, grays, shadings of colour through perspective. The painters over in New York say, How can anyone ever paint there, with this zinc-coloured sky? But in fact it’s wonderful! Everything becomes clear, translucent, exact, limpid. Nice, in this sense, has helped me. What I paint, you see, are objects conceived with plastic means. When I close my eyes, I see the objects better than I do with my eyes open, stripped of accidental detail, and that is what I paint’ (Matisse quoted in Louis Aragon, 1943, p. 32) . The artist’s vision; devoid of any strict figurative and temporal representation and the exploration into the possibilities of pure colour have been at the core of Matisse’s art and the city of Nice and its surroundings had a profound and lasting impact on his œuvre. During his sojourns in Nice, Matisse not only painted a celebrated series of interior scenes focussing on the role of light and arrangements in an interior, but also striking examples of plein-air works painted in 1918. The rich foliage at either side of the present work acts as a visual repoussoir to the central depiction of a grand villa, typical in the architectural style of the region and elegant with its green roofs. Light and landscape is captured by the artist and La Villa Bleue is a particularly striking example of these works, of which another version now resides in the Barnes Collection in Philadelphia having been acquired by Alfred C. Barnes from the dealer Paul Guillaume in 1925.
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