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

Etude pour La France

Henri Matisse (1869-1954)
Etude pour La France
signed and dated 'Henri Matisse 9 Nov 39' (lower left)
charcoal on paper
20½ x 16 in. (52.3 x 40.6 cm.)
Executed in Nice in November 1939
Anonymous sale, Christie's, Geneva, 6 November 1969, lot 176.
Galerie Berggruen et Cie., Paris.
José Luis & Beatriz Plaza, Caracas, by whom acquired from the above on 9 December 1971; sale, Sotheby's, London, 8 December 1997, lot 11.
Guggenheim Asher Associates, New York, by whom acquired at the above sale.
Private collection, Midwest United States, by whom acquired from the above; sale, Sotheby's, New York, 6 May 2004, lot 345.
Private collection, by whom acquired from the above; sale, Christie's, New York, 7 November 2012, lot 45.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
L. Delectorskaya, Henri Matisse: Contre vents et marées, Peintures et livres illustrés de 1939 à 1943, Paris, 1996, p. 60 (illustrated).
Lucerne, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Henri Matisse, July - October 1949, no. 122, p. 37.
Caracas, Centro Cultural Consolidado, Marcas y trazos del dibujo: 44 Maestros Modernos, April - June 1994, p. 46 (illustrated p. 47).
Special notice

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Lot Essay

Wanda de Guébriant has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

Executed on 9 November 1939, just weeks after France had declared war on Germany, this dynamic and expressively rendered charcoal drawing is a study for the painting, La France. An image of a woman enthroned in a chair and adorned in the bold colours of the French tricolore, La France serves as a visual personification of Matisse’s homeland rendered in his quintessential style; an exuberant and patriotic image in the face of war. 

Étude pour La France dates from a period not only of political and social turmoil, but also of personal upheaval as Matisse’s ailing, estranged wife, Amélie returned to Nice. After two decades of seclusion in Paris, Amélie Matisse arrived in Nice and demanded that her husband pick between her and Lydia Delectorskaya, his studio manager and principal model. In a matter of days, Matisse’s quiet residence at La Régina became the frontline of in-fighting. Forced to choose, the artist picked his wife, though she left him some short months after. Alone, Matisse found solace in a lively spirited model named Micheline Payot who is most likely the model for the present work.

During the late 1930s, Matisse created some of the most innovative and expressive drawings of his career. Drawing was a central component of his art making, allowing him to experiment with compositions, which he would then render in oil paint. He was working simultaneously in two contrasting techniques: using pen and ink to create pure line drawings, as well as charcoal which allowed him to render gestural strokes, building up form, volume and tonal shading on the surface of the paper. The charcoal drawings, such as Étude pour La France, demonstrate the artist’s total engagement with the model seated in front of him; while the pen and ink drawings represent the subject distilled to its very essence. Capturing his model’s sensuous curves and the voluminous sleeves of her decorative attire as she reclines in a chair, with these sweeping strokes Matisse also imbues his sitter with a sense of defiant confidence as she boldly faces the uncertain future of her country head on.  

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