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

Cordages sur la plage d'Etretat

Henri Matisse (1869-1954)
Cordages sur la plage d'Etretat
signed 'Henri-Matisse' (lower left)
oil on canvas
15 x 18¼ in. (38.1 x 46.4 cm.)
Painted circa 1920
Anon. sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet & Co., London, 1 April 1981, lot 42.
Waddington Galleries, Ltd., London.
Acquired from the above by the family of the present owner, circa 1990.

Lot Essay

Wanda de Guébriant has confirmed the authenticity of this painting.

Painted around the time of Matisse's visit to the Normandy coast in the summer of 1920, Cordages sur la plage d'Etretat is a vibrant depiction of the dramatic cliffs and the daily activities of the fishermen in the village of Etretat. These are the same cliffs which inspired Gustave Courbet and then Claude Monet in the 1880s. The chalky cliffs curved out from the town in a crescent-like form before rising to great heights, their multi-colored, striated surfaces capped by contrasting lush greens.

The infusion of light, shimmering colors and the obvious joy which Matisse took in painting the beachside and cliffs at Etretat in the summer of 1920 was observed by the art critic Charles Vildrac, who wrote: "you experience at once both the light and the landscape, unable to disassociate them. The impalpable gauze that here and there finishes drying and polishing the sky, the beach, the cliffs, the horizon, the boat resting on the pebbles...you see all that in a single, absolutely simple image. Thus do Matisse's landscapes appear to me: and thus it seems, did Nature appear to him, touched by the miracle of a suddenly rediscovered light, the miracle lies in the painter's vision and in the power that he has to reproduce it" (in Exposition Henri Matisse, exh. cat., Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, 1920).

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