Matisse spent his second season in Nice during the winter and spring of 1919-1920. "Living, sleeping and working in one small room, he had finally succeeded in narrowing his existence down to painting alone. 'I'm the hermit of the promenade des Anglais,' he wrote to his wife" (quoted in H. Spurling, Matisse the Master, New York, 2005, p. 226).
Matisse's daughter Marguerite typically served as his model, dressed in ensembles designed by friends. Marguerite was in poor health in 1919-1920, and was unable to join her father in Nice. In her absence, Matisse hired Antoinette Arnoux, a local eighteen-year-old girl, to model for him. Instead of using some professionally made millinery, Matisse devised his own hat for Antoinette. "I worked a lot with a hat which I made myself out of an ostrich feather, Italian straw and a stream of black and blue ribbon which the milliners call Comet. This hat was made in order to be able to put it on two ways, backward and forward" (quoted in J. Cowart, Matisse: The Early Years in Nice, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1987, p. 24).
The present lot bears striking similarities to one of the Antoinette paintings executed in Nice during summer of 1919 (Dauberville no. 309, fig. 1). Instead of the shimmering blue backdrop of the Mediterranean, in the present work the artist has placed his model in a verdant landscape. Of the Antoinette series, Jack Flam has written:
Matisse portrays Antoinette serially, as if she were disparate women involved in a variety of roles. She is subject to a wide range of appearances and moods, and even to extreme changes in age. There is also a wide variety of technical and stylistic means, which range from a very detailed and modeled description to freewheeling, linear evocations of form" (in Matisse in Translation: Around Laurette, exh. cat., Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, 2006, p. 28).
(fig. 1) Henri Matisse, Femme à l'ombrelle, 1919. Location unknown.