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

Nature morte aux oranges

Henri Matisse (1869-1954)
Nature morte aux oranges
signed 'H. Matisse' (lower right)
oil on canvas
18 x 21 5/8 in. (45.7 x 55 cm.)
Painted in 1898
Max Pellequer, Paris.
Galerie Beyeler, Basel (no. 10696).
Private collection, Japan.
Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Aus Privaten Sammlungen, February - April 1986, no. 27 (illustrated).
Toulouse, Musée Paul Dupuy, Matisse: Ajaccio-Toulouse 1898-1899, October - December 1986, no. 17 (illustrated p. 73); this exhibition later travelled to Nice, Galerie des Ponchettes, December 1986 - January 1987.
Tokyo, Isetan Museum of Art, Henri Matisse, October - November 1987, no. 9 (illustrated p. 144); this exhibition later travelled to Yamaguchi, Prefectoral Museum, November - December 1987; Osaka, Daimaru Museum of Art, January 1988 and Yokohama, Sogo Museum of Art, February - March 1988.
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Lot Essay

Wanda de Guébriant has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

Painted in 1898, Nature morte is filled with colour. The fruit in the bowl and the striations of the light reflected in the central vessel show an impressive confidence. Crucially, the picture conveys a sense of stability, of the solidity of the objects depicted, that appears to owe more to Cézanne or to Gauguin than it does to the Impressionists. Looking at Nature morte, it is therefore telling to read Matisse's words about the Impressionists: 'A rapid rendering of a landscape represents only one moment of its existence. I prefer, by insisting upon its essential character, to risk losing charm in order to gain greater stability' (Matisse, quoted in P. Schneider, Matisse, London, 1984, p. 73).

Nature morte was painted in 1898, a year of significant breakthroughs for Matisse. For it was in 1898 that he surpassed many of the influences to which he had formerly submitted. In Nature morte, it is clear that Matisse has moved through the Impressionist phase that resulted in his early masterpiece, La desserte of the previous year. Light is crucial, but more so are the bold areas of colour that prefigure the Fauve palette that Matisse would increasingly adopt over the forthcoming years. Many of the advances that Matisse made during 1898 were due to the relative seclusion in which he kept himself, for he spent his time away from Paris for the majority of the year, instead spending his time in the South of France and in Corsica. There, the light had a huge impact on him, especially taken in conjunction with the sight of Turner's paintings.

It was also in 1898 that he had visited London on honeymoon, mainly in order to see the works of Turner, a move that had been suggested by Pissarro and which resulted in a new appreciation of light. And in seeing Turner, Matisse passed on from the Impressionism that had formerly influenced him. For in Turner's paintings, Matisse saw not only light, but a means of creating an intense and dreamlike sense of beauty that was rooted in but that did not slavishly represent the scenes that nature presented. This was an interest that Matisse took to new levels, considering his art to consist 'of a meditation on nature, on the expression of a dream inspired by reality' (Matisse, quoted in ibid., p. 60). This itself appears to be a tribute to Matisse's teacher, Gustave Moreau, who had died earlier in the same year that Nature morte was painted. However, the sheer enjoyment of bold colour that is evident in this picture shows the degree to which Matisse had moved on from Moreau's Symbolist leanings.

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