Henri Matisse (1869-1954)
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Henri Matisse (1869-1954)

La lecture

Henri Matisse (1869-1954)
La lecture
signed and dated 'Matisse 44' (lower left)
pen and ink and pencil on paper
15¾ x 20½ in. (40 x 52 cm.)
Executed in 1944
Galerie Rosengart, Lucerne, by whom acquired directly from the artist on 25 April 1953.
Acquired from the above by the father of the present owner in November 1955.
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Lot Essay

Wanda de Guébriant has confirmed the authencity of this work.

Executed in 1944, this work belongs to a very intense phase in Matisse's life and career. At the end of June 1943, because of the risk of Allied bombing in Nice, he had moved outside the city to the villa Le Rêve, on route de Saint-Jeanneret, where he remained until 1949. In the spring of 1944, his ex-wife Amélie and his daughter Marguerite, who had been active in the Resistance, were arrested by the Gestapo. Matisse learned that Mme Matisse had been sentenced to a six-month prison term, but could not discover anything about his daughter Marguerite until she was freed after the liberation of Paris on 25 August.

Matisse's reaction to the general and personal tragedies of war since 1940 had been a desperate attempt to seek refuge in his art - and to radically disassociate art from war. In 1940, in the midst of his separation from his wife, whilst Germany was invading France, he painted Le Rêve (Private Collection), probably one of the most lyrical, peaceful and romantic of his later oils. From 1943, he found in the cut-out, a new form of creative expression, another way to escape the anxieties and conflicts of his life: his artistic universe became populated with poetically floating figures, organic signs on brilliantly illuminated backgrounds.

The present work epitomises Matisse's urgent need to escape the dire reality of the final months of the war: nothing, in La lecture, betrays any connection with the turmoil of the time. One is almost startled to associate the suspended calm of the woman reading with the date boldly accompanying the artist's signature. With the perfectly mastered economy of the pen and ink drawing, Matisse has created a world of harmonious solitude, untouched by drama and tragedy.


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