Wanda de Guébriant has confirmed the authenticity of this drawing.
For Matisse, the act of drawing became virtually an obsession. Prior to 1935, drawings held a subsidiary role in Matisse's work, serving as a means of solving compositional problems that the artist encountered in his works on canvas. From 1935 onward the process of drawing had become central to his art, and served as the catalyst for changes in the evolution of his painterly aesthetic. By the time Matisse painted Nu rose in 1935 (fig. 1), he had synthesized his fondness for lavish interior subjects like those painted in Nice with the simplified grandeur of his drawings; color and drawing were at once united.
Matisse carefully documented the evolution of Nu rose with twenty-two photographs taken at different stages of its development between 1 May and 30 October 1935, as well as numerous charcoal studies, of which the present drawing is one. The present work, with its sinuous lines and intensity of shading, emphasizes the naturalistic contours of the female form. As a study for the painting Nu rose, the present sheet was drawn before Matisse simplified the contours of the figure and eliminated foreshortening. The sheer force of the figure in Etude pour 'Nu rose' goes back to such early works as Nu bleu: Souvenir de Biskra, 1907 (Baltimore Museum of Art, Cone Collection) and the sculpture, Nu couché I (Aurore), 1907 (Duthuit, no. 30).
Etude pour 'Nu rose' was drawn with the sensitivity of a colorist. Matisse aimed for "luminous space"; tonal and value accents allow for the play of light and shadow across the sheet. In the artist's own words, "In spite of the absence of shadows or half-tones expressed by hatching, I do not renounce the play of values or modulation. I modulate with variations in the weight of line, and above all with the areas it delimits on the white paper. I modify the different parts of the white paper without touching them, but by their relationships" (quoted in The Sculpture and Drawings of Henri Matisse, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1984-1985, p. 117).
(fig. 1) Henri Matisse, Nu rose, 1935.
Baltimore Museum of Art (Cone Collection).