This work is sold with a photo-certificate from Wanda de Guébriant.
Femme nue was executed in 1906, during one of the most active and important periods of Henri Matisse's life. It was at precisely this time that he emerged as an artist of extreme talent and boldness, cutting a trailblazing path of his own which would come to influence many of the artistic pioneers of the period and would come to have important implications for the development of modern art during the Twentieth Century as a whole.
Femme nue dates from the same year that Matisse was first introduced to the young Spanish artist, Pablo Picasso, reflecting his new-found status as a lynchpin of the avant-garde. At the end of 1905, Matisse had caused uproar and furore when he had exhibited bold Fauve works in the notorious Salon d'Automne of that year. In the time that followed immediately, he shed even more of the sense of Pointillism that had flavoured his paintings, and had moved into a new larger studio space in a disused convent in Paris in order to create first his and then one of his greatest early works, La joie de vivre (also known as Le bonheur de vivre), which is now in the Barnes Foundation. La femme au chapeau was bought by the Steins, setting into motion a new period of patronage and relative financial stability after several years of struggling to make ends meet for himself and his family. But the real revelation and revolution was La joie de vivre: this picture, which was bought by Leo Stein, was Matisse's sole contribution to the 1906 Salon des Inépendants and immediately prompted wild controversy, not least from his former defenders such as Paul Signac. It was filled with a new-found classicism yet rendered in bold, modern colours, showing the complete renunciation of Neo-Impressionism.
Whole areas of the woman in Femme nue have been rendered with an almost calligraphic restrain that appears to relate to the forms in the large oil, La joie de vivre. Indeed, while the pose is not directly echoed by any of the figures in that painting, there is a lyricism and a hint of classicism that shows her to be some form of cousin to them. At the same time, the influence of one of Matisse's most vital touchstones, Ingres, is evident in the restraint and sensuality of both content and execution, and in the thematic link to Le bain turc, in the Louvre. Indeed, that sculptural sense of form that is so peculiar to Ingres and which finds its own strange reincarnation in Cézanne's figures can be perceived in Femme nue as well, perhaps reflecting the developments in the field of sculpture that would occupy him so intensely in 1906 and 1907.