Henri Matisse (1869-1954)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more PROPERTY FROM A PRIVATE COLLECTION 
Henri Matisse (1869-1954)

Jeune fille en robe blanche, assise près de la fenêtre

Henri Matisse (1869-1954)
Jeune fille en robe blanche, assise près de la fenêtre
signed and dated 'Henri Matisse 9/42' (lower left)
oil on canvas
25 5/8 x 18 1/4 in. (65 x 46.3 cm.)
Painted in September 1942
Galerie Fabiani, Paris, by whom acquired from the artist.
Philippe Dotremont, Brussels, by 1952.
Sidney Janis Gallery, New York.
J. Irwin & Xenia S. Miller, Columbus, IN, by whom acquired from the above in November 1960, and thence by descent; sale, Christie's, London, 24 June 2008, lot 18.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
H. Matisse, Verve: Henri Matisse, de la couleurs, vol. IV, no. 13, Paris, 1945 (illustrated p. 12).
L. Aragon, Henri Matisse: a novel, vol. I, London, 1971, p. 137 (illustrated in a photograph).
L. Delectorskaya, Henri Matisse, contre vents et marées: peinture et livres illustrés de 1939 à 1943, Paris, 1996, p. 393 (illustrated p. 392).
Exh. cat., Henri Matisse: Processus Variation, Tokyo, 2004, p. 261 (illustrated p. 49, fig. 57).
Ostend, Palais des Thermes, Gloires de la peinture moderne: hommage à James Ensor, July - August 1949, no. 104.
Knokke, Grande salle des expositions de 'la réserve', 75 oeuvres du demi siècle, July - September 1951.
Knokke, Grande salle des expositions de 'la réserve', Exposition Henri Matisse, July - August 1952, no. 30 (illustrated p. 32; titled 'Jeune fille devant la fenêtre').
Brussels, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Panorama de l'art contemporain dans les musées et collections belges, May - June 1953, no. 30.
Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Collectie Philippe Dotremont, April - May 1954, no. 53; this exhibition later travelled to Eindhoven, Stedelijk van Abbe-Museum, May - June 1954.
Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Rétrospective Henri Matisse, July - November 1956, no. 87, pp. 32-33 (titled 'Jeune fille devant la fenêtre').
Tokyo, Muse´e National d'Art Occidental, Henri Matisse: Processus/Variation, September - October 2004, no. 57, p. 261 (illustrated p. 49).
Vancouver Art Gallery, Collecting Matisse and Modern Masters: The Cone Sisters of Baltimore, May - September 2012.
Special notice
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent. These lots have been imported from outside the EU for sale using a Temporary Import regime. Import VAT is payable (at 5%) on the Hammer price. VAT is also payable (at 20%) on the buyer’s Premium on a VAT inclusive basis. When a buyer of such a lot has registered an EU address but wishes to export the lot or complete the import into another EU country, he must advise Christie's immediately after the auction.

Brought to you by

Anna Povejsilova
Anna Povejsilova

Lot Essay

This work is sold with a photo-certificate.

Celebrating with arresting spontaneity the warmth and brilliance of a Mediterranean room with a view, Jeune fille en robe blanche, assise près de la fenêtre captures the carefree boldness with which Henri Matisse returned to painting in the early 1940s. Executed in September 1942, the work depicts the silhouette of a young girl, sitting in front of a window open onto the green and blue spectacle of a littoral coast. Matisse described the scene with diaphanous, extemporaneous brushstrokes, tying the composition together through a general sense of light-hearted brightness.

Despite the joyful, blissful quality of its subject-matter and palette, Jeune fille en robe blanche, assise près de la fenêtre was executed at a time of personal hardship for Matisse. In 1942 the artist was living at the Hôtel Régina in Cimiez, Nice. Part of Vichy France and under the threat of a Fascist invasion from Italy, Southern France had not been spared from the tension and angst of the Second World War. Nevertheless, Matisse refused to leave. When his friend, the American Varian Fry, offered him a teaching post at Mills College in California, as a pretext to allow the artist to seek refuge, Matisse politely refused. Besides, his health would have not allowed him to brave the trip. In 1941, Matisse had to undergo an urgent, serious surgical operation. Particularly invasive for a man in his seventies, the operation was thought to be a rather risky and desperate measure. Yet, despite all fears, Matisse made a slow, but miraculous recovery over the next year. Between 1941 and 1944 the artist was mostly confined to his bed. Defying his physical immobility, Matisse demonstrated an incredible vitality in his art, as he produced an impressive series of drawings and paintings, before turning his attention to the cut-outs, the last great triumph of his career.

Dated September 1942, Jeune fille en robe blanche, assise près de la fenêtre was executed during one of Matisse’s first returns to painting after his operation. After having spent almost six months in bed, in August 1942 the artist had returned to his easel. As the artist’s biographer Hilary Spurling explained, that was the beginning of an important series of works, which included Jeune fille en robe blanche, assise près de la fenêtre: it ‘launched an extraordinary set of variations which Matisse painted that autumn on the theme of girls in chairs on tiled floors, playing with light, multiplying and dividing it, making it glimmer and glow in compositions that reduced the minimal ingredients available – a door, a window, striped fabric, slatted blinds, sometimes a couture dress from his cupboard – to strips, swathes and swatches, broad bands and tilted planes of pure colour’ (H. Spurling, Matisse the Master, London, 2005, p. 411). Revelling in colour effects, the series expressed Matisse’s renewed enthusiasm for life after he had a brush with death. Although doctors had predicted the autumn and winter of 1942 to be Matisse’s last, he ‘had gathered all his forces for a last supreme outburst of energy’ (ibid., p. 412). Indeed, the experience marked a turning point for the artist. 'What I did before this illness, before this operation’, Matisse affirmed, ‘always has the feeling of too much effort; before this, I always lived with my belt tightened. What I created afterwards represents me myself: free and detached' (Matisse, quoted in J. Cowart et al., Henri Matisse: Paper Cut-Outs, exh. cat., St. Louis, 1977, p. 43).

Works such as Jeune fille en robe blanche, assise près de la fenêtre followed an intense period of reflection, in which Matisse had pondered the difficult relationship between drawing and colour. Possessing great mastery in both, Matisse nevertheless perceived these two modes of expression as incompatible. Yet, the artist was determined to discern their exact correlation: in 1940, he had announced to his son Pierre his decision to stay in Nice, motivating his choice by explaining that he had to obey ‘the necessity which has made [him] persist in trying to find a harmony between drawing, colors and [his] feelings’ (quoted in P. Schneider, Matisse, London, 1984, p. 646). A year before executing Jeune fille en robe blanche, assise près de la fenêtre, Matisse had indeed embarked on an impressive series of drawings, Themes and Variation. Displaying an ease of execution and an exuberant simplicity, these drawings were conceived as variations on different themes, displaying Matisse’s powers as a draughtsman. Conscious of having attained something fundamental in those drawings, in April 1942 Matisse confided to Luis Aragon: ‘If I manage to do in painting what I’ve done in drawing, I can die happy’ (quoted in H. Spurling, op. cit., p. 405). Executed five months later, just after another dangerous relapse of his health, Jeune fille en robe blanche, assise près de la fenêtre affirms Matisse’s determination to achieve an ultimate, radical development in his painting.

A few months before executing Jeune fille en robe blanche, assise près de la fenêtre, Matisse had explained to his son: ‘For the last year I have made an enormous effort in drawing. I said effort, that is incorrect, because what I’ve produced has been like a floraison (a flowering) after fifty years of efforts. I need to do the same in painting’ (quoted in P. Schneider, op. cit., p. 648). Blossoming from the artist’s pen like flowers on trees, the spontaneous, uncontrolled perfection of the drawings in Themes and Variation had shown Matisse an approach he was now eager to apply to his paintings. Internalised and rehearsed during decades of experience, colours and compositions were now able to bloom on the canvas with renewed freshness and freedom. Reducing the compositional elements of Jeune fille en robe blanche, assise près de la fenêtre to a symphony of pastel tones and diaphanous hues, Matisse had introduced in his work an even more spontaneous rendition of that poetic expression of colours which had always been central to his work. In September 1942 – the same month he painted Jeune fille en robe blanche, assise près de la fenêtre – the artist had written to Aragon: ‘I have at last seriously come to grips with Painting…’ (quoted in P. Schneider, op. cit., p. 648). In paintings such as Jeune fille en robe blanche, assise près de la fenêtre, colour was able to ultimately triumph over drawing. In 1947, the artist would finally state: ‘I am once and for all committed to colour because drawing interests me no longer’ (quoted in Henri Matisse: Exposition du Centenaire, exh. cat., Paris, 1970, p. 46). Demonstrating the intrepid spirit and relentless ambition of Matisse’s late years, works such as Jeune fille en robe blanche, assise près de la fenêtre express a liberated, ultimate expression of the artist’s will. Commenting on the period, Matisse would conclude: ‘It may seem that joy radiates from my work more than in the past, but this is exactly what I tried to do fifty years ago. It had taken me all this time to reach a stage where I can say what I want to say’ (quoted in S.N. Blum, Henri Matisse: Rooms with a View, London, 2010, p. 148).

More from Impressionist/Modern Evening Sale

View All
View All