Pierre Matisse, New York (by descent from the artist).
By descent from the above to the late owner.
Property from the Estate of Pierre-Noël Matisse
MATISSE AND HIS MODELS
Art history often seeks to classify artists' careers through tidy divisions into "styles" and "periods." In critical literature, one might find a reference to the "Blue Period," the "Bauhaus years" or the "Nice years." While this system of categorization is inherently flawed in some respects, it can serve to elucidate the motivations behind severe alterations in stylistic choices and subject matter. Yet very few artists can be classified through such external factors. Henri Matisse is a unique case. His heavy reliance upon his models throughout his career allows those studying his art to become familiar with the different women who entered into his life for periods at a time. Since the female plays such an integral role in his oeuvre, viewers of Matisse's art can recognize the different models depicted, which allows us to neatly situate certain works within their historical and biographical context.
Matisse drove himself and his models to the limits of endurance in his powerful effort to express his emotions on canvas. The young women who posed for him learned to live and work in an occasionally tense atmosphere where their energy would be drained again and again with each sitting. Matisse preferred to risk ruining a painting than be satisfied with a surface likeness. As he once told his daughter Marguerite, "it's always necessary to force your whole being beyond this stage because it's only then that you start to make discoveries, and tear yourself apart in the process" (quoted in H. Spurling, "Matisse and His Models," Smithsonian Magazine, October 2005, p. 1).
Matisse's models were always intricately connected with his family life. Indeed, his earliest models were his wife, Amélie, and his daughter, Marguerite, during the first decade of the 20th century (fig. 1). Amélie did not enjoy posing for him, however, and the 1913 Portrait de Madame Matisse was the last painting ever executed of her. During these years Matisse therefore hired a professional model, Loulou Brouty, who sat for him often. Loulou spent the entire summer of 1909 with the Matisses in the remote Mediterranean fishing village, Cavalière, where she played with the children, provided company for Amélie, and took swimming lessons from Matisse between painting sessions. With Loulou, Matisse developed a new visual language that led to the somber, powerful, semiabstract works produced at the height of the First World War.
Matisse soon began to feel restless, and desired to change his techniques. With this desire to innovate came a new woman, Lorette, a professional Italian model. Lorette was fully comfortable in the studio, dressing up in a variety of costumes for Matisse. She transformed herself into a Spanish señorita in a lace mantilla, a member of a female harem in a white turban and Turkish robe, and a Parisian cocotte in a peignoir and matching shift hitched up to reveal frilly garters. Their relationship was blissfully productive, setting the stage for his future partnerships, which each took on the obsessive intimacy of a love affair that played out on Matisse's canvases. The artist painted Lorette nearly 50 times over a 12 month period. In 1918, Matisse moved his workspace from Paris to a hotel in Nice, thus ending the relationship.
After searching for a model in Nice for a year, Matisse found Antoinette Arnoud, a pale, slender, and very stylish 19 year old. Matisse responded to her love of fashion with the gift of a hat he made himself from a straw base, attaching a long, white ostrich plume. Daily painting sessions were interrupted with hours devoted to drawing. The drawings of Antoinette are highly detailed, as Matisse combined concentrated simplicity with highly detailed texture. The public became suspicious of Matisse's relationships with his models, beginning with Antoinette. La fenêtre à Nice (fig. 2) depicts her bare-legged, her long loose hair flowing over her torso, seated beside Matisse's bed in his hotel room. Though the Nice images are highly sensual and erotically charged, Matisse upheld that his relationships with his models were purely business. The artist's strong ties to his family, as evidenced by the weekly, sometimes daily, letters exchanged with his wife and children, suggest that there was no tension or resentment among the family over his models. Rather, Matisse and his wife treated the models of Nice as a succession of adopted daughters, who would spend time with Amélie and the children during breaks from posing.
Antoinette's successor, Henriette Darricarrère, also developed a close relationship with the Matisse family. The artist spotted her in 1921 while she was working as an extra on a film set in Nice. Henriette became Matisse's principal model for his odalisques. A ballet dancer and musician, she had a natural grace and beauty which could transform into luxurious sensuality during their sessions. Marguerite joined the family in Nice at the beginning of 1922, and she and Henriette got on very well together. Marguerite was six years the model's senior, and Henriette looked up to her as an older sister. The two even posed together on several occasions. Matisse's art achieved new heights with Henriette as his model. He sculpted a series of massively compacted busts, which accentuate her straight nose, firm chin and columnar neck. The high point of their collaboration is the painting Decorative Figure on an Ornamental Background (fig. 3), which combines riotous color and pattern with Henriette's somber, solid body. This project exhausted both the artist and model, and Henriette would in fact never fully recover. She fell ill, leaving Matisse for the summer in order to recuperate. However, upon her return the relationship was no longer the same. After seven years with the artist and his family, she left to get married.
Over the next eight years, Matisse found other models, notably a dynamic, brunette Italian called Zita, and various other ballet dancers (fig. 4). In 1935, he met the Russian model Lydia Delectorskaya, who would remain with the artist for the rest of his life. Lydia was physically different from all of Matisse's former models--she had long golden hair, pale white skin, and bright blue eyes. With her finely cut features and coloring, Matisse referred to her as an ice princess (fig. 5). But their relationship was anything but cool. Their close working relationship, or perhaps speculations of adultery, prompted the end of Matisse's marriage. Amélie had dismissed Lydia, however Matisse refused to acknowledge this, deepening the rift that had been growing between the couple. Lydia was distressed with the situation and shot herself in the chest with a pistol, but was only injured. After Matisse and his wife's legal separation in 1939, she returned to live with the artist permanently, as his model, secretary and, eventually, as his caretaker. The day before Matisse's death, the artist summoned her to his bedside to draw one final image of her, with her hair up in a towel, accentuating the classical purity of her profile.
Christie's is honored to present the following collection of drawings from The Estate of Pierre-Noël Matisse (see lots 510, 545-554 and 622-632). They have been been in the Matisse family since their creation, and have remained largely unknown to the public. After Henri Matisse's death in 1954, his son Pierre, the famed dealer and proponent of European Modernism in America, inherited them. Subsequently, they were inherited by his son from his first wife Alexis "Teeny" Duchamp, Pierre-Noël. This collection of drawings represents a wide range of Matisse's stylistic periods, as defined by his models.
(fig. 1) Photograph of Matisse with Amélie and Marguerite in the studio at Collioure, 1907.
(fig. 2) Henri Matisse, La fenêtre à Nice, 1919. The Barnes
(fig. 3) Henri Matisse, Decorative Figure on an Ornamental Ground, 1925-1926. Musée National d'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou,
(fig. 4) Photograph of Matisse and the model Zita, 1928.
(fig. 5) Photograph of Lydia Delectorskaya, 1935.
Property from the Estate of Pierre-Noël Matisse