HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)
HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)
HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)
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HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Paysage avec cyprès et oliviers aux environs de Nice

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)
Paysage avec cyprès et oliviers aux environs de Nice
signed 'Henri-Matisse' (lower right)
oil on board laid down on panel
10 5/8 x 13 3/4 in. (27 x 34.9 cm.)
Painted in Nice circa 1918
Michael and Sarah Stein, Paris and Palo Alto (until 1938).
Sarah Stein, Palo Alto (acquired from the above).
Stendahl Galleries, Los Angeles.
The Lefevre Gallery (Alex. Reid & Lefevre, Ltd.), London (by 1953).
Sir Antony and Lady Hornby, London (by February 1954).
Private collection, Hertfordshire (by descent from the above, after 1987); sale, Christie's, London, 27 June 1995, lot 160.
Acquired by Ann and Gordon Getty at the above sale.
London, The Lefevre Gallery (Alex. Reid & Lefevre, Ltd.), French Paintings, February 1954, no. 14 (illustrated; titled Paysage de Nice).
London, The Tate Gallery, Private Views: Works from the Collection of Twenty Friends of the Tate Gallery, April-May 1963, no. 80.
‌‌San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso and the Parisian Avant-Garde, May-September 2011, no. 154 (illustrated, p. 208, pl. 165).
Further details
The late Wanda de Guébriant confirmed the authenticity of this work.

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Lot Essay

“A little while ago, I took my nap underneath an olive tree and what I saw was of a color and a softness of relationships that was truly moving. It seems as though it is a paradise that one does not have the right to analyze, however one is a painter, God damn it. Ah! Nice is a beautiful place!”.
Painted in 1918, Matisse’s Paysage avec cyprès et oliviers aux environs de Nice exemplifies the unique qualities of the artist’s early Nice period. This phase of Matisse’s career, which lasted from 1917-1930, is only the beginning of his lifelong love affair with the Southern French city, where he would reside every winter for the rest of his life. Matisse was particularly drawn to Nice’s warm, Mediterranean light, which he described as “soft and tender despite its brilliance” (quoted in D. Aagesen, Matisse: In Search of True Painting, New York, 2012, p. 110).
This radiant light inspired a new era of Matisse’s painting, turning away from the intensity of Fauvist color towards softer, subtler hues. While Matisse is well-known for his interiors from this period, he also created several notable landscapes, an increasingly rare genre that he would largely abandon for the rest of his career. “[A]t no previous time in [Matisse’s] career would physical location or environment play so large and long a role in contributing to the appearance of the resulting art…The city: the hotel rooms, the studios, the apartments, everything that is the Cote d’Azur conditioned Matisse’s vision and personal spirit” (J. Cowart, Matisse: The Early Years in Nice, exh. cat., The National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., p. 15).
‌Matisse painted Paysage avec cyprès et oliviers aux environs de Nice while staying in the Villa des Alliés, a small house nestled amongst the trees on Mont-Boron hill. When Matisse first visited Nice, he stayed in the Hôtel Beau-Rivage, where he painted his initial series of hotel interiors. However, in May 1918, Matisse and his family were forced to move after the Hôtel was used to house soldiers, leading them to occupy the villa for two months. The new house offered beautiful views of both the surrounding countryside and the sea, offering plentiful material for Matisse’s landscapes. He would typically work on his landscapes en plein air in the hills, before finishing later in his studio.
In addition to the open-air painting technique, Matisse embraced other aspects of Impressionism during this period, such as the more muted, naturalistic color palette and imagery, in contrast to the vibrant palettes and radical compositions of his earlier Fauvist period. Works like Paysage avec cyprès et oliviers aux environs de Nice also show the influence of Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Claude Monet, two influences who became closer friends with Matisse during this period. Though the present work shows the signs of external influences, it encapsulates the artist’s distinctive handling, including the thick, expressive brushstrokes animating the patches of green grass, the unusual, unnaturally blue color of the trees, and the dark, hazy outlines. All of these elements embrace visual sensation over accuracy, evincing how Matisse filtered aspects of Impressionism through his intuitive, emotive style.
Paysage avec cyprès et oliviers aux environs de Nice has a significant provenance. Before it was owned by Ann and Gordon Getty, the painting belonged to Michael and Sarah Stein, brother and sister-in-law of Gertrude Stein. The Steins were close friends and notable patrons of Matisse. They heavily promoted his work at their salons in prewar Paris, purchasing numerous works and countering the controversy that often surrounded his work. Matisse had a particular affinity for Sarah Stein, whom he described as uniquely sensitive amongst the notable family. This was one of the first works the Steins acquired after the First World War ended, and stands out amongst the numerous Steins' Matisses for its sensitive, romantic evocation of an ideal landscape.

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