Wanda de Guébriant has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Matisse's innovative use of colored paper cut-outs during the late 1940s enabled him to merge his love of color with drawing. In September 1947, Tériade published Jazz, the seminal portfolio of twenty pochoirs based on Matisse's paper cut-outs, which the artist described in his introductory text as "drawing with scissors." At the same time, however, Matisse also felt the need to continue working in inscribed signs--or drawn lines--and began a series of large brush and ink drawings in which subject matter and expressive power were closely related to his contemporaneous paintings of figures, still-lifes and interiors at Vence.
These late brush and ink drawings represented a synthesis of painting and drawing, pared down to the barest essentials. John Elderfield has called these drawings "truly a kind of painting by reduced means" (in Matisse: His Art and His Public, New York, 1951, p. 128). The drawings are conceived according to the principle of juxtaposition of black and white: white acquired its luminous quality through the value of black and the whole composition becomes coloristically expressive. Matisse wrote in the catalogue to a 1949 exhibition of recent works at the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, the same year that Danseuse was created, that "the special quality of brush drawing, which, though a restricted medium, has all the qualities of a painting or a painted mural. It is always color that is put into play, even when the drawing consists of merely one continuous stroke. Black brush drawings contain, in small, the same elements of coloured paintings that is to say, differentiations in the quality of the surfaces unified by light" (quoted in ibid., p. 128).
While the paintings of the late 1940s tend to possess a domestic stillness and grandeur appropriate to the assured manner of a master in his old age, the brush drawings project a surprisingly bold and youthful dynamism. Danseuse is filled with a spontaneous and energetic graphism, abounding in twists, squiggles and spry gestures of the brush, that capture in the most simple and essential way the energy and graceful quality of a dancer. Matisse himself once described his pen and ink drawings of the mid-1930s as "an acrobatic feat" (quoted in J. Flam, ed., "Notes of a Painting on his Drawing," Matisse on Art, Berkeley, 1995, p. 131). In this regard, the great late brush drawings are perhaps even more daring and scintillating.
(fig. 1) Henri Matisse, Jazz: Le Cirque, 1943. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. c The Museum of Modern Art/Licensed by SCALA Art Resource, NY.