Wanda de Guébriant has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Louis Aragon, the celebrated French poet, first met Matisse when he and his wife took refuge from the German occupation in Nice in 1941. Aragon had admired him all his life and now became an extremely close friend. This friendship allowed Aragon the unique opportunity to regularly visit Matisse at work in his studio. Over a period of 27 years, Aragon wrote a series of memoirs which were published in their entirety under the title Henri Matisse: Roman by Editions Gallimard in 1971. The richly illustrated text includes a series of 21 photographs of Matisse working on his series of Carmen drawings in his Vence apartment in 1946 (figs. 1 & 2).
Aragon recalls that Matisse executed seven fine drawings of which the present work is one. In his novel, Aragon gives us a vivid description of the first of the photographs below as he surveys the scene in the studio:
'The interesting thing about this picture is that at the far end of the room, beyond the familiar low striped easy chair above which some garments, including the white overall, are hanging from a peg, we catch a glimpse into the next room, where Matisse (with his back to us, in a dark jacket and wearing a hat) is drawing a portrait of that lovely black woman who appears in countless drawings made at Vence, a woman from Haiti and who can herself be seen, posing at a suitable distance at the foot of the wall where there are several Matisse pictures, including The Cloak. A bunch of mistletoe is hanging above' (L. Aragon, Henri Matisse: a novel, London, 1972, p. 250).
The present drawing is amongst the finest of the series. It is executed with great confidence and like all the best charcoal drawings of the 1940s has great volume. In this, as well as its exotic subject, it echoes Gauguin's drawings of Tahitian girls executed 50 years earlier.