MATISSE, Henri. Six autograph letters signed ('Votre bien devoué Henri Matisse') and one autograph postcard signed to Mary Hutchinson, Paris and Nice, 17 December 1937 - 14 February 1947, 7 pages, 4to and 4 pages, 8vo, autograph envelopes; [and] 5 telegrams from Henri Matisse to Mrs Hutchinson, 2 typed letters by the director of the Victoria and Albert Museum and 3 other items.
Letters to an English friend. In the first, recovering from illness and planning to paint, 'car je vois déjà venir de nouveaux tableaux'; then anticipating meeting her in London, writing 'en ce moment à Paris en plein travail et c'est sa mise en route qui m'a empeché d'aller à Londres jusqu'ici'; referring to his work for the Ballets Russes, and in the last four letters to the showing of his film in London at the 'salle Hammers Theatre Oxford Street'. In 1947 he writes of a new treatment, 'mes medecins après bien des hésitations m'ont fait prendre un traitement à la PENICILLINE -- qui n'a réussi qu'à m'empoisonner'.
The first letter was written when Matisse had begun to paint Lydia Delectorskaya, the blonde Russian model who from 1936 to 1938 was to inspire many of his best works. The Ballets Russes provided his most important commission in 1937-38, when he was invited to design the sets for Leonid Massine's production of Rouge et Noir. It was for this that Matisse first used papier decoupé, and the sets, seen in Monte Carlo, Paris and New York, were a triumph for him. The post-war film to which he refers was A Visit with Matisse, a documentary made in 1946, in Paris and Vence, by Francois Campaux, under the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. It depicted the artist at work, and was widely shown abroad.
Two letters by Eric Maclagan, from the Victoria and Albert Museum, refer to Mrs Hutchinson's help in procuring lithographs by Matisse, in 1934-35.
Mary Hutchinson (1889-1977), wife of a prominent barrister, St John Hutchinson, was related to the Stracheys and to Duncan Grant. For many years on the fringes of Bloomsbury and, later, in the circle of Aldous Huxley, she was the mistress of Clive Bell and, from 1915 to 1927, the most important person in his life after Vanessa. She is the subject of many acerbic comments in the letters of Virginia Woolf, but was slightly more charitably described by Violet Hammersley as 'unscrupulous but amusing'. Bell wrote to Picasso in 1920 asking him to draw her, and it was probably at about this time that she met Matisse, to whom Bell had been introduced in 1908 by Roger Fry. Bell describes her in his memoir as 'an old friend of Picasso' and mentions her as one of a party who visited Matisse at Vence in 1948 (Old Friends, 1956). (7)