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PROPERTY OF A FRENCH LADY
It was by one of those coincidences of which life is made that Denise "Rebecca" Arokas was called to the side of Henri Matisse.
Initially, in 1951, she was asked by Lydia Delectorskaya, Matisse's companion, to watch over the elderly artist as a nurse. However, right from the beginning Matisse asked this elegant nineteen year old to pose for him. It was thus that she modelled for several important works such as the painting for the Pavillon de Marsan, or large cut-out gouaches such as "la Tristesse du Roi", now in the Musé National d'Art Moderne in Paris.
From the days spent working together and the many nights spent reading the Cantique des Cantiques many drawings would emerge. These were mostly portraits in which, with a few fluid lines, Matisse would capture his young model.
The peaceful ambience of the artist's studio at the Hôtel Regina in Nice was conducive to creativity. There, Denise would start to make her own drawings; notably a superb portrait of Matisse at the back of which he inscribed, "J'aime ce dessin"! The artist even asked the young woman to be his student, but at nineteen it was hard to accept such an offer, to remain by the side of an eighty year old man, while the brilliant lights of Paris and Saint-Germain beckoned in the distance.
In Paris, Denise became "Rebecca", a fashion model for Jean Patou and Balenciaga. She took drawing classes in different art academies and spent time with a young fellow named Karl Lagerfeld, while integrating herself into the Parisian fashion world of the 1950s.
From her years spent by Matisse's side, Denise Arokas has kept a series of portraits and drawings of stylish simplicity, exemplary of the artist's sophisticated elegance and unique draughtsmanship.