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

Grand paysage aux arbres

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)
Grand paysage aux arbres
signed and inscribed 'H. MATISSE 17' (lower left)
oil on canvas
23 5⁄8 x 29 in. (60 x 73.7 cm.)
Painted in Spring 1918
Pierre Matisse, New York.
By descent from the above to the present owner.
Le Cateau-Cambrésis, Musée Matisse, Matisse et l'arbre, October 2003-January 2004, p. 47 (illustrated).
Nice, Musée Matisse, Matisse en France, July-September 2004, p. 67 (illustrated).
Further details
Georges Matisse has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

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Lot Essay

“Most come here [Nice] for the light and the picturesque beauty (or scenery). I am from the North. The large colorful reflections in January, the brightness of the day are what attracted me to settle here.”—H. Matisse, Écrits et propos sur l’art, Paris, 1971, p. 123.

Matisse painted the present landscape at the conclusion of the First World War, in 1918. Along with the rest of Europe, the artist was coming out of a dark and austere period, which had been palpable in his artistic production. His work from the early 1910s was characterized by forceful black outlines, and an impenetrable style partly influenced by Cubism. Although this period of experimentation would prove important in his artistic development, when Matisse arrived in Nice in 1917, he felt a breath of luminous fresh air which he had never experienced: “When I realized that every morning I would see this light again, I could not describe my joy. I decided not to leave Nice, and I stayed there practically all my life” (H. Matisse, Écrits et propos sur l’art, Paris, Hermann, 1971, p. 123).
Being from the North of France, he was amazed at the Southern sky and its year-round radiant reflection against the sea. This relocation also offered Matisse respite from the Paris art world and its mundanities, and provided him the time to experiment peacefully. Along with a renewed sentiment of harmony post-WWI, the Midi led him to abandon the cubist style of the early teens as depicted in the present painting.
Here, Matisse masterfully simplifies through color: slight variations of pink, blue, green and ochre shape the viewer’s perspective and give the landscape its depth. Layers of essentialized shapes coexist harmoniously. Although delineated, the hills are enveloped by a unifying, calming light. To the right, a rosy mist descends over a group of trees, perhaps slipping away with the dawn’s soft light.
Through mixing en plein air painting with his specific mode of abstraction, Matisse emphasized the attention on paint as a medium capable of translating the power of nature—a poetic approach to landscape that would inspire generations of future artists, such as the Lebanese painter Etel Adnan whose compositions equally toy the line between the grandeur of nature and the purity of geometric form.

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