Lot Content

Global notice COVID-19 Important notice
Henri Matisse (1869-1954)
Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's… Read more
Henri Matisse (1869-1954)

Femme assise

Henri Matisse (1869-1954)
Femme assise
signed 'Henri Matisse' (lower left)
pen and India ink on paper
18¾ x 13½ in. (47.6 x 34.3 cm.)
Executed in Nice in 1931
Henry F. & Stella Fischbach, New York.
Anna Eleanor Roosevelt Braman Grasso, Connecticut, and thence to her estate; sale, Skinner Auctions, Massachusetts, 15 May 2009, lot 359.
Acquired at the above sale by the present owner.
Charles E. Slatkin Galleries, New York, The Many-Sided Artist, February - March 1961, no. 60.
Special Notice

Artist's Resale Right ("Droit de Suite"). Artist's Resale Right Regulations 2006 apply to this lot, the buyer agrees to pay us an amount equal to the resale royalty provided for in those Regulations, and we undertake to the buyer to pay such amount to the artist's collection agent.
VAT rate of 5% is payable on hammer price and at 20% on the buyer's premium.

Brought to you by

Cornelia Svedman
Cornelia Svedman

Lot Essay

This work is sold with a photo-certificate from Wanda de Guébriant.

Reinvigorating the French tradition and taste for Orientalism, Henri Matisse's Femme assise dress explores the odalisque theme that masters such as Eugène Delacroix and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres had made their own. Unlike his predecessors, however, Matisse did not try to confine his odalisques to a fictitious past and exotic country. Instead, puncturing the suspension of disbelief, he bestowed theatrical Eastern trappings and attributes on his studio and model which owed as much to Matisse's own art as they did to the Orientalist tradition. Comfortably curled up on an ample chair, a female figure defiantly stares out at the viewer. One arm posed on her knee, the other resting on the armchair, her body conveys the nonchalant confidence of a woman aware of her seductive power. The veils of her oriental dress spread around her as she sits, while streams of jewellery, trims and laces ornate her body. Set against the floral patterns of the background and just above the geometric repetition of the hexagonal tiles, she becomes the main object of contemplation within these decorative surroundings.

Femme assise successfully conveys the sensual richness of the odalisque's dress, as well as the visual vibrancy of the patterns around her; yet the drawing is completed with remarkable economy of means. Avoiding shading or colour, Matisse entrusted his vision to the pure line. His use of it, however, is extremely versatile: the lines are brisk and short as they compose the floor pattern; they become ample and supple as they describe the odalisque's body; finally they frill and curl as they follow the floral pattern on the wall. While many artists would first execute quick, simple sketches and then rework the subject into more elaborated, modelled studies, Matisse has inverted the process. For him, the simple line drawings were the ultimate, meaningful distillation of his careful study of light, mass and colour.

Matisse thought of his line drawings as being more than a purely graphic exercise. In the variations of the line he believed the 'light and value differences' were able to evoke colours on the white page (H. Matisse, 'Notes of a Painter on his Drawing', pp. 129-132, in J. Flam, ed., Matisse on Art, London 1995, p. 130). Among his drawings, he regarded those achieved with fine, simple lines as his major achievements. In 1939 he concluded: 'My line drawing is the purest and most direct translation of my emotion'; he specified: 'The simplification of the medium allows for that' (ibid.).

Executed in 1931, Femme assise is closely related to Matisse's glorious, so-called niçoise period of the 1920s. In Nice, Matisse's art came to be populated by voluptuous female figures, enveloped in Mediterranean light, juxtaposing the silhouettes of their bodies to the patterns of richly decorated rooms. The odalisque paintings of those years increased the artist's popular reputation, attracting two important commissions in 1930: a mural cycle at the Barnes Foundation and a series of illustrations for Stéphane Mallarmé's poems published by Skira. At the dawn of a new chapter in the artist's career, Femme assise remains one of Matisse's lasting statements of vision, creation and quest for expression that he achieved during the niçoise period.

More from Impressionist/Modern Works on Paper

View All
View All