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Henri Matisse (1869-1954)
PROPERTY FROM THE COLLECTION OF LEW AND EDIE WASSERMAN Known as the "king and queen of Hollywood" for their considerable business and social influence as well as their philanthropic pursuits, Lew and Edie Wasserman loved entertaining friends in their Beverly Hills home. Over the course of their 66-year marriage, the couple had formed so many lasting friendships, their 50th anniversary party in 1986 drew more than 700 of Hollywood's leading social, political and industry figures. The couple met and married in Cleveland, Ohio, in the mid-1930s. At the time, Mr. Wasserman, who had begun his career in show business as a cinema usher, was booking bands for a Cleveland nightclub. His sensitive handling of the performers so impressed Jules Stein, founder of the talent agency MCA, he was hired to open an office in Los Angeles, where the couple moved in 1938. Within a decade, Mr. Wasserman was president of MCA, with a reputation for fierce advocacy on behalf of his clients. Over the next four decades, he reshaped Hollywood, ending the studios' rigid long-term contract system, negotiating profit participation, and extending film stars' careers into television. As head of Universal Studios in the 1970s and 80s, he pioneered the summer blockbuster movie, starting with Jaws, and licensed a catalogue of classic films for television, earning the studio three times its investment in the first year. While Mr. Wasserman was becoming one of the last true moguls of Hollywood, Mrs. Wasserman was steadily amassing her own sphere of influence as a social power broker and a tireless champion of charitable causes. An intensely private couple, they tended to avoid publicity, except on behalf of fundraising for their favorite causes, which included the Los Angeles Music Center, California Institute for the Arts, the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA, and the Motion Picture and Television Fund, which cares for retired actors in a building named after the couple. Mrs. Wasserman created a Wasserman Scholars program at six major universities nationwide. The film industry rewarded Mr. Wasserman with a special Oscar in 1973 for his charitable contributions and civil rights advocacy. The Wassermans also opened their home to presidential candidates, senators and congressional representatives, becoming a mandatory stop on California fundraising trips. Mr. Wasserman was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Bill Clinton, who called him "one of the smartest men I ever met, and in more than intellectual ways. He just came across as someone who understood what life was all about and was pulling for people to have good lives."
Henri Matisse (1869-1954)

Femme assise

Details
Henri Matisse (1869-1954)
Femme assise
signed and dated 'Henri Matisse 38' (lower right)
charcoal and estompe on paper
19 x 14¾ in. (48.3 x 37.5 cm.)
Drawn on 15 February 1938
Provenance
Galerie Beyeler, Basel (by 1966).
Frank Perls Gallery, Beverly Hills.
Mary Lasker, Los Angeles.
Lew and Edie Wasserman, Los Angeles (gift from the above).
Literature
I. Grunewald, Matisse, Stockholm, 1944, p. 161.
A. Humbert, Matisse dessins, Hazan, 1956, pl. 32 (illustrated).
L. Delectorskaya, With apparent ease... Henri Matisse, Paintings from 1935-1939, Paris, 1988, p. 255 (illustrated).
Exhibited
Los Angeles, UCLA Art Galleries; Art Institute of Chicago and Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Henri Matisse Retrospective, January-June 1966, p. 155, no. 189 (illustrated).
Sale Room Notice
Wanda de Guébriant has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

Please note the additional literature citations:

I. Grunewald, Matisse, Stockholm, 1944, p. 161.
A. Humbert, Matisse dessins, Hazan, 1956, pl. 32 (illustrated).

Lot Essay

Wanda de Guébriant has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

During the late 1930s, Matisse worked mainly on a series of dual-figure compositions in which he placed two female models in interior settings he created in his Nice studio, which the artist decorated with the large leaves of philadendron plants and assorted household accessories. The first of these pictures is the one Matisse titled Deux personnages féminins et le chien, which he began on 21 November 1937. This easel painting went through successive stages which Matisse's studio assistant and chief model Lydia Delectorskaya documented in photographs (op. cit., pp. 254-261). Matisse pronounced the canvas finished on 3 March 1938, and sent it to Paris to be photographed for inclusion in the magazine Verve. Following return shipment of the painting to Nice, Matisse resumed work on it, which included making major alterations to the harmonization of colors, before declaring it complete and definitive on 25 May 1938 (fig. 1), more than six months after he began it.

The drawing Femme assise dans un fauteuil is a related study made on 15 February 1938, at around the half-way point in Matisse's progress on the painting. This sheet shows an alternate version for the left hand figure, seated on and leaning against the back of a chair, here seen with her head facing the viewer rather toward her companion on the right side, as it does in the painting. Lydia served as his model, and in a less elaborate drawing done the next day, Matisse posed her nude in a similarly seated position (ibid., p. 255). The artist, however, does not appear to have introduced at any point this revised pose into his painting.

Matisse had now reached the very summit of his skills as an innovative and expressive draughtsman. He was working simultaneously in two different techniques. He made pure line drawings in pen and ink, unshaded and bare, in which erasure and revision were not possible. He also drew, as seen here, with pieces of charcoal, working and reworking the lines with a stump (estompe, a thick paper stick used to blend the charcoal strokes), so that the final image appears to emerge from a shadowy network of pentimenti--partly erased and redone lines. The charcoal drawings were the artist's most important tool in preparing for his paintings, especially those with complex compositions. The pen-and-ink line drawings are most often entirely independent works, representing the subject distilled to its very essence.

In his 1939 text Notes of a Painter of his Drawing, Matisse explained that the "charcoal or stump drawing... allows me to consider simultaneously the character of the model, her human expression, the quality of surrounding light, the atmosphere and all that can only be expressed by drawing." He went on to describe his approach to the model: "The emotional interest they inspire in me is not particularly apparent in the representation of their bodies, but often rather by the lines or the special values distributed over the whole canvas or paper and which forms its orchestration, its architecture" (quoted in J. Flam, ed., Matisse on Art, Berkeley, 1995, pp. 130-132).

Matisse liked to paint in the mornings, and draw in the afternoons, laying down the framework for the next day's work. John Elderfield has noted, "Painting and drawing were separated activities, and line and colour functioned separately. This led Matisse to shift his attention, around 1937, to charcoal drawing, where line coalesced from areas of tonal shading... This, it seems, could help bring back line and areas of colour more closely together... " (The Drawings of Henri Matisse, exh. cat., The Arts Council of Great Britain, London, 1984, p. 118). Elderfield has stated that the charcoal drawings "are realized in their own terms, and without exception show Matisse's stunning mastery of this especially sensual medium. The tonal gradations are extraordinarily subtle, yet appear to have been realized very spontaneously, and the keen sense of interchange between linear figure and ground adds tautness and intensity to their compositions... At their best, they are emotionally as well as technically rich and show us a more mortal Matisse than his pure line drawings do" (ibid., pp. 118-119).

(fig. 1) Henri Matisse, Le jardin d'hiver (Deux personnages féminins et le chien), Nice, May 1938. Private collection.

Barcode: 29175895

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