Details & Cataloguing

Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale


Henri Matisse
1869 - 1954
signed with the artist’s initials HM (lower left)
watercolour on paper
24.8 by 31.8 cm., 9 3/4 by 12 1/2 in.
Executed in 1905.
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The authenticity of this work has been confirmed by Wanda de Guébriant.


Sale: Christie's, New York, 6th November, 1991, lot 118
Henry & Marianne Reed, Montclair, New Jersey (purchased at the above sale)
Thence by descent to the present owner


Brisbane, Queensland Art Gallery; Canberra, National Gallery of Australia & Melbourne, National Gallery of Victoria, Matisse, 1995, no. 31, illustrated in colour in the catalogue
New York, Hollis Taggart Galleries, The Color of Modernism: The American Fauves, 1997, no. 46
Cateau-Cambrésis, Musée Matisse & CéretMusée départemental d'art moderne, Matisse-Derain, Collioure 1905, un été fauve, 2005-06, no. 86, illustrated in colour in the catalogue

Catalogue Note

‘Working before a soul-stirring landscape, all I thought of was making my colours sing, without paying any heed to rules and regulations’
(Henri Matisse quoted in P. Schneider, Matisse, London, 1984, p. 203).

Étude pour 'Le Bonheur de vivre', executed in 1905, dates from the very pinnacle of Matisse's first experiments in Fauvism. The present work is a study for the monumental painting Le Bonheur de vivre, which was first exhibited at the Salon des Indépendants of 1906. It's huge scale and shocking colours faced mixed reviews among contemporary critics, but the Arcadian landscape, filled with a vibrant forest, meadow, sky and sea, populated by nude figures both at rest and in motion, is widely regarded as one of the pillars of early Modernism.

Inspired by the lush vegetation and intense light of the untouched landscape of the south of France, Matisse created a succession of pictures in which he honed his intensely vivid and energetic style. Étude pour 'Le Bonheur de vivre' provides a wonderful insight into Matisse's artistic approach. Abandoning the controlled pointillist style of Neo-Impressionism which had dominated his paintings in recent years, he employed dynamic and expressive brushstrokes, executed in an explosive palette of complimentary colours; the combination of yellow, purple, red, green, orange and blue translates the light and atmosphere of the landscape onto canvas.

Impressionist & Modern Art Day Sale