Wanda de Guébriant has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Executed in August 1947, Portrait de femme offers by the simplicity of its line and technique the most essential representation of the female face. With the most stylized lines Matisse gave his figure a sensuous mouth, almond eyes, a soft face of the purest oval shape, and a flawless nose. He softened this perfect face by adding long, curly hair and kept it very natural giving her as her only accessory a hair-band. When making this drawing, Matisse used a preferred medium of Conté crayon on paper, using the sharp end of the crayon for the face's outlines, and the broad, soft side, to draw the hair.
Throughout his long career Matisse always had a keen interest in portraiture, which he considered a much neglected subject at the time. For him, however, it was an inexhaustible source of inspiration, as he was always fascinated by faces. In his 1955 book on portraiture Matisse described how he used to work with his models and captured the essence of a face, describing the particular, while researching for the universal: 'I can do no more than describe my own experience - and I see myself, pencil or charcoal in hand, looking at some person who interests me and whose appearance I am setting down on paper, without any very fixed purpose. In this way I can give free rein to my powers of observation, while we carry on a casual conversation in which I talk or listen with no attempt to stem its course. At such time nobody must ask me a question - even a commonplace one such as "What time is it?" - for this would interrupt my revery, my meditation around the model, and seriously endanger the success of the work. After half an hour, or perhaps an hour, I notice to my surprise that a fairly definite picture is gradually appearing on my sheet of paper - a fair likeness of the person before me.' (quoted in Henri Matisse Portraits, Monte-Carlo, 1955, pp. 14-15).
Matisse further added: 'In my opinion, however, the basic expression of a portrait results almost entirely from the projection of the feelings aroused in the artist by his model, and not from exact representation of the model's features.' (ibid., p. 13). Therefore, whilst Matisse through his Portrait de femme offers us the essence of his model, he also opens a window to his own perception of, and reaction to, his sitter.