HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)
HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)
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PROPERTY FROM A DISTINGUISHED EUROPEAN COLLECTION
HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Portrait de femme (Lydia)

Details
HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)
Portrait de femme (Lydia)
signed and dated 'H. Matisse nov. 47' (lower right)
Conté crayon on paper
20 ¼ x 15 7⁄8 in. (51.5 x 40.4 cm.)
Executed in Vence in November 1947
Provenance
Private collection, France, by whom acquired in the 1950s, and thence by descent; sale, Sotheby’s, Paris, 3 December 2008, lot 62.
Private collection, Amsterdam.
Galerie Thomas, Munich, by whom acquired from the above.
Acquired from the above by the present owner in 2012.
Literature
M. Malingue, ed., Matisse, Dessins, Paris, 1949, no. 89, p. 16 (illustrated p. 89; with incorrect medium).
Exhibited
Nice, Galerie des Ponchettes, Henri Matisse, January - March 1950, no. 23. p. 34 (with incorrect dimensions).
Further details
The late Wanda de Guébriant confirmed the authenticity of this work in 2012.

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Lot Essay


Henri Matisse intermittently lived and worked in Nice from 1917 until the outbreak of the Second World War when he was forced to leave. He returned to the sun-bathed French Riviera in 1943, settling into the Villa le Rêve in Vence, a medieval town just outside of Nice. The villa, with its beautiful untamed grounds full of citrus and palm trees had gorgeous views of the Cote d’Azur, was an ideal peaceful sanctuary where the artist could dedicate himself to his work. It was here that the present lot was executed at the end of November 1947. Indeed, from 1948 to 1951, whilst Matisse was working on the design commission for Dominican chapel in Vence, he focused entirely on drawings and cut-outs, foregoing any painting.

Matisse was exceptionally skilful in handling pen and ink as well as pencil and Conté crayon, using smooth, delicate, flowing lines to bring the sensual and curvaceous outlines of his model’s faces and bodies to life. The human figure was one his preferred subjects, and his close-up portraits of women remain his most iconic and immediately recognisable themes.

At Matisse’s side from the late 1930s was his model, muse, studio assistant and companion, Lydia Delectorskaya. From their first meeting in 1932, when she worked for Matisse as a model, an unbreakable bond was forged between the artist and the Russian émigré, 40 years his younger. Compared to southern types, Lydia had the features of 'an ice princess' (H. Spurling, Matisse, le maître, II, 1909-1954, Paris, 2009, p. 380), which captured the artist's imagination and served as inspiration for some of his most celebrated portraits. In the present work Matisse amplifies Lydia’s almond eyes, thin nose and full lips to create a study that fully transmits the ‘force of the model’ (Lydia Delectorskaya, Muse et modèle de Matisse, exh. cat., Musée Départemental Matisse le Cateau-Cambrésis & Musée Matisse de Nice, Paris, 2010, p. 62).

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