Henri Matisse (1869-1954)
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more The Collection of Peggy and David Rockefeller
Henri Matisse (1869-1954)

Femme se reposant

Henri Matisse (1869-1954)
Femme se reposant
signed and dated 'Henri Matisse 37' (lower right)
pen and India ink on paper
11 1/8 x 15 in. (28.1 x 38 cm.)
Drawn in 1937
Galerie Berggruen et Cie., Paris.
Acquired from the above by the late owners, January 1968.
M. Potter et al., The David and Peggy Rockefeller Collection: European Works of Art, New York, 1984, vol. I, p. 256, no. 94 (illustrated).
L. Delectorskaya, Henri Matisse, With Apparent Ease, Paintings from 1935-1939, Paris, 1988, p. 230 (illustrated).
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Lot Essay

Wanda de Guébriant has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

“My line drawing is the purest and most direct translation of my emotion,” Matisse declared in the opening of his Notes of a Painter on His Drawing, published in 1939 (J. Flam, ed., Matisse on Art, Berkeley, 1995, p. 130). The sequences of drawings that he created in pen and India ink between late 1935 and the end of 1937, representing female figures at ease, nude or clothed, in elaborate interior settings, “are among the finest achievements of his draughtsmanship,” John Elderfield claimed. “Some of the individual sheets are breathtaking in their assurance and audacity, and almost without exception, they realize what the comparable, late 1920s ink drawings did not: decorative assimilation of the figure into the decorated unity of the sheet” (The Drawings of Henri Matisse, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1985, p. 113).
Matisse drew Femme se reposant while working on the oil painting La grande robe bleue et mimosa, between 26 February and the end of April 1937. The model in both works is the artist’s Russian-born studio assistant, Lydia Delectorskaya, attired in the same voluminous formal gown with ruffled bib in which she posed for the painting. She rests her head on the arm of the embroidered chaise longe which is also seen, as stylized arabesques, in the canvas. The mirror behind her catches the reflection of the back of her head and shoulder, as well as the tile grid pattern of the facing wall. Matisse executed four other drawings while the painting was underway, exploring various elements for possible use, including a close-up of the ruffled bib (op. cit., 1988, pp. 230-233). Femme se reposant stands alone, however, conceived as a fully independent and self-contained work of art, entirely an end in itself.
“These drawings are more complete than they appear,” Matisse asserted. “They generate light…they contain, in addition to the flavor and sensitivity of the line, light and value differences that quite clearly correspond to color…I distinctly feel that my emotion is expressed by means of plastic writing. Once my emotive line has modelled the light of the paper without destroying its precious whiteness, I can neither add nor take anything away. The page is written; no correction is possible. If it is not adequate, there is no alternative than to begin again, as if it were an acrobatic feat. It contains, amalgamated according to my possibilities of synthesis, the different points of view that I could more or less assimilate through my preliminary study” (exh. cat., op. cit., 1985, pp. 113-114).
“Drawing…is the expression of the possession of objects,” Matisse emphasized. “When you know an object thoroughly, you are able to encompass it with a contour that defines it entirely” (op. cit., 1995, p. 156). Within the single luminous plane of the sheet, “the drawing itself is a latticework, an all-over patterned fabric,” Elderfield wrote. “We are shown a private world, where everything is related to everything else” (exh. cat., op. cit., 1985, p. 114). In spatial terms, Matisse explained, “objects are composed on different planes; thus, in perspective, but in a perspective of feeling, in suggested perspective” (op. cit., 1995, p. 131). Not since the cubist works of Picasso has drawing borne so effortlessly—and joyously—the complexities of visual conceptualization and representation, or the contemplation of the nature of art in relation to perceived reality. “To sum up, I work without a theory,” the artist stated. “I am conscious only of the forces I use, and I am driven by an idea that I really only grasp as it grows with the picture” (ibid., p. 132).

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