A photo-certificate from Margurite Duthuit dated Paris, 2 February 1981 accompanies this drawing.
During his long career Matisse produced two significant series of drawings which he intended to serve as definitive statements of his achievements as a draughtsman. In 1920, at the age of fifty, Matisse selected fifty of his recent drawings for publication in book form by Bernheim-Jeune. Titled Cinquante dessins, this compilation reveals the full maturity of Matisse's linear technique and declares the artist's commitment to a classical approach to the figure that would characterize his work in Nice during the 1920s and 1930s.
A little more than two decades later, in 1941-1942, Matisse executed a series of 158 drawings, divided in 17 groups, each comprised of 3 to 19 sheets, which he called Thmes et variations. With an introduction by Louis Aragon, this collection was published by Martin Fabiani in Paris in 1943. In this group Matisse summed up his later achievement in line, and at the same time revealed a new systematic and analytic approach to his treatment of the figure and still-life subjects. "I have the feeling," he wrote in 1943, "that all these drawings result from a fusion of my experience, of my work, of my need for knowledge" (quoted in G. Diehl, "Avec Matisse le classique, Comoedia, vol. 3, no. 102, 12 June 1943, p. 6).
Influenced by the philosophy of Henri Bergson concerning time, memory and relative experience, the Thmes et variations drawings ponder the multiple realities inherent in the artist's subjects. Following on this accomplishment, the best drawings of the later 1940s, whether executed in brush or pen and black ink, have an epic richness in their composition (as did the drawings following Ciquante dessins twenty years earlier), and an autumnal ripeness of worldly satisfaction and well-being, even while the artist's own health was declining.
The present drawing displays the masterly synthesis of form and content in Matisse's late drawings. Purely by means of line the artist evokes a complex interior/exterior space, furnished with diverse still-life objects, into which he integrates a figure as well. The artist's assured, unerring line defines all aspects of the composition, and in his summary yet precise manner Matisse describes objects in a completely satisfying way without selectively isolating or focusing on local detail. All such components are completely subsumed into the larger whole.