Georges Matisse has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
‘Charcoal 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’ - Henri Matisse (J. Flam, Matisse on Art, London, 1995, pp. 130-131)
In ‘Tête de jeune fille’ we can see Matisse joyously and unapologetically embracing the characteristics of a charcoal medium. Although portraying only the head and face of the young woman, Matisse has used the expressiveness of the material to turn the simple composition into a masterclass in texture, volume and movement.
As in his paintings of the same period, Matisse has clearly revelled in the lines and forms of his model, and employs the soft, loose nature of the charcoal to capture the diaphanous quality of the woman’s hair and features. He does so by using the forgiving nature of the medium to its limit; allowing him to work and rework his marks by adding, erasing, smudging and blurring.
‘Tête de jeune fille’ presents the vision of a beautiful young woman, endowed with a fine nose, large eyes and voluptuous mouth, which is enhanced by the confident, exuberant line of the artist’s distinctive hand. Its deftly worked surface, in which the artist investigates the interplay of positive and negative space with mastery, pre-empts his revolutionary cut-outs and the body of work that would come to consume his later life endeavours.
Like so many of the figurative works Matisse produced throughout his long career, the genius of this work lies in the incredible synergy between the artist skilfully revealing the character of the model depicted, and, more elusively, the personality and charm of the artist himself.