Wanda de Guébriant has confirmed the authenticity of this work.
Matisse's innovative use of colored paper cut-outs during the late 1940s enabled him to merge his love of color with drawing. "I am drawing directly in color," he wrote to André Rouveyre in 1948 (quoted in J.Elderfield, Matisse Drawings, exh. cat., The Arts Council of Great Britain, 1984, p. 127). In September 1947, Tériade published Jazz, the famous portfolio of twenty pochoirs based on Matisse's paper cut-outs, which the artist described in his introductory text as "drawing with scissors." At the same time, however, Matissse also felt the need to continue working in inscribed signs--drawn lines--and began a series of large brush and ink drawings, including the present work, which were related to his contemporary paintings of female figures and still-life arrangements set in interiors (fig. 1). Alfred H. Barr, Jr., has written, "The drawings of 1947-1948 are not only closely related to paintings of the period in motif but rival them in scale and power" (in Matisse: His Art and His Public, New York, 1951, p. 276).
These late brush drawings represented a synthesis of painting and drawing, pared down to the barest essentials. John Elderfield has called these drawings "truly a kind of painting by reduced means" (in op. cit., p. 128). Matisse wrote in the catalogue to a 1949 exhibition of recent works at the Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris, that "the special quality of brush drawing, which, though a restricted medium, has all the qualities of a painting or a painted mural. It is always color that is put into play, even when the drawing consists of merely one continuous stroke. Black brush drawings contain, in small, the same elements of coloured paintings that is to say, differentiations in the quality of the surfaces unified by light" (quoted in ibid., p. 128).
While the paintings of the late 1940s tend to possess a domestic stillness and grandeur appropriate to the assured manner of a master in his old age, the brush drawings project a surprisingly bold and youthful dynamism. Figure féminine et fruits, especially, is filled from side to side with a spontaneous and energetic graphism, abounding in twists, squiggles and other spry gestures of the brush, that describe in the most simple and essential way a figure, fruit, flowers, a table-top and drapery. Barr has observed that "Matisse during the 1940s seems to have come nearer to the Chinese in his drawing than ever before" (op. cit.). Each vigorously-rendered and cursive sign contends equally for the attention of the viewer's gaze, yet all are subsumed within the artist's stronger conception of the whole, and add up to a scene in which the interior space is logically and reassuringly legible.
Matisse once described his pen and ink drawings of the mid-1930s as "an acrobatic feat" (in "Notes of a Painting on his Drawing," J. Flam, ed., Matisse on Art, Berkeley, 1995, p. 131). In this regard, the great late brush drawings are perhaps even more daring and exciting. Barr has asserted that "In fact they are quite unprecedented in Matisse's graphic art in the black-and-white boldness of effect" (op. cit.).
(fig. 1) Henri Matisse, La branche de prunier, fond vert, 1948. Barcode 23668317