From the Matisse Family Collections

Henri Matisse approached printmaking with a toolbox of techniques that allowed him to explore the medium to its fullest. Widely recognized as one of the greatest and most diverse printmakers of the 20th century, he worked with various printmaking methods throughout the course of his career, four of which are featured through works included in this sale.


Lot 43:
Odalisque à la Coupe de Fruits
lithograph, 1925


  • The Process
    Lithography involves an artist drawing on a prepared stone block or metal plate with a specially formulated ink. The surface is then dampened with water (which is repelled by the greasy areas) and rolled with printing ink (which adheres only to the grease). At this point, the image is ready to be printed. Matisse also employed an elaboration of this technique by drawing not directly on the stone but on a particular type of paper known as ‘transfer’ paper, which transfers the design to the stone or plate. This process often retains the original ‘grain’ of the paper.
  • The Artist
    Lithography lent itself to the painterly qualities of Matisse’s work, allowing him to create full scenes replete with rich detailing and texture. Furthermore, Matisse preferred transfer lithography, since the image does not print in reverse, like a standard lithograph. Matisse began working with lithography as early as 1906 and revisited the technique throughout his career.
  • The Work
    Odalisque à la Coupe de Fruits is characteristic of the sumptuous detailing and volume that is achievable through lithography. By varying the pressure applied by the lithographic crayon and the printing press, Matisse was able to create a range of values, from the delicate shading on the subject’s face to the dark stripes seen in the background.

Lot 4:
Nu couché
etching, 1929


  • The Process
    After a metal (usually copper) plate is treated with an acid-resistant ground or wax, the artist draws through the ground with various tools to expose the metal. The plate is then immersed in an acid bath where the acid chemically dissolves the exposed lines, creating a thin furrow in the metal plate. Ink is applied with a roller, and the surface is wiped clean. The ink, then, remains only in the furrows and is printed onto a sheet of paper when passed through a press.
  • The Artist
    Closely related to drawing in its ability to render loosely sketched lines, etching was often used by Matisse to quickly illustrate friends, family, and as his career progressed, models. Unlike other artists, Matisse refrained from major experimentation with this technique, preferring instead to focus on draftsmanship.
  • The Work
    Nu couché exudes the freedom and creative possibilities inherent in etching. With little resistance from the printing matrix (metal plate), Matisse was able to suggest the volume and light with a few rapidly drawn lines around the form of his model.


  • The Process
    In this technique, a plate is marked or incised directly with a metal point or sharp stylus. Drypoint lines can look similar to etched lines, but are most easily characterized by the existence of a burr, a velvety ridge alongside the line.
  • The Artist
    Unlike etching, drypoint allowed Matisse to sketch directly onto the metal plate. As a result he produced intimately scaled works through this technique, underscored by the presence of burr and their sketch-like qualities.
  • The Work
    Close examination of Jeune femme les mains jointes sur le dossier d’un meuble reveals the presence of burr along the subject’s contours. The jagged fluidity of Matisse’s lines and the close-up depiction of his sitter recall many artists’ use of a sketchbook—precisely how Matisse utilized this technique.

Lot 44:
Bédouine au grand Voile
aquatint, 1947


  • The Process
    Tone is created by treating a plate with fine particles of acid-resistant material (like powdered resin) and then placing the plate in an acid bath. The acid bites into the plate between the grains of resin, and when printed, the resulting mass of tiny spots produces a textured area with tonal effects that are similar to a watercolor wash.
  • The Artist
    Matisse began to use aquatint later in life, during the 1930s and again in the 1950s. While aquatint is traditionally used to add shade, depth and tone to a primary printing method like etching, Matisse employed the technique in an exclusively painterly fashion, using broad strokes to capture his immediate emotional response to his subjects. He explored aquatint in both black and colored inks.
  • The Work
    Eschewing the use of aquatint as a supplement to other printmaking techniques, Matisse created Bédouine au grand Voile with broad, bold, brushstrokes to give the basic compositional elements of his subject.

complete set of 20 pochoirs, 1947


  • The Process
    This technique employs stencils to create various forms and was originally used to simulate hand-coloring.
  • The Artist
    Although Matisse was largely restricted to working from his bed during the later years of his life, this period resulted in some of the artist’s most colorful, exuberant works—many of which were inspired by his use of painted paper cut-outs. It was during these later years that Matisse began to work with pochoir, and through this technique, these iconic, instantly recognizable collage compositions were translated into print form.
  • The Work
    Comprising 20 pochoirs, Matisse’s Jazz is a celebration of this technique. The hand-cut stencils, created in the form of the artist’s gouache découpés (collage cut-outs), emphasize what Matisse called "chromatic and rhythmic improvisation" embodied in the music of jazz. His inventive use of color and organic form are nowhere more successful than in his later oeuvre.

Emma au long Cou I
monotype, 1915


  • The Process
    With the monotype technique, a unique image is printed from an unworked, smooth metal or glass surface which has been painted with ink.
  • The Artist
    Matisse worked in monotype simultaneously with etching. Through both of these techniques, he achieved loose lines that perfectly captured a variety of sitters and expressions.
  • The Work
    As is the case with many of Matisse’s monotypes, this work features a stylistically rendered portrait, which has been reduced to its essential forms and is expressed through white lines positioned on a dark background.

Océanie, la mer
screenprint on linen, 1946


  • The Process
    After stencils are used to block out certain areas of a loosely woven fabric (most commonly silk, wire mesh or synthetic fabrics), the surface is inked with a tool called a squeegee. The resulting image is created by the unblocked portions of the fabric, which have absorbed the ink from the printing process.
  • The Artist
    Matisse began working with this technique after a 1946 visit to the London-based textile designer Zika Ascher, who implored him to design a fabric wall-hanging based on his ephemeral compositions of cut paper.
  • The Work
    Océanie, le mer, along with the pendant composition Océanie, le ciel, represents one of Matisse’s earliest uses of paper cut-outs, and as such, occupies an important place in the artist’s oeuvre. The composition of this work was based on the cut-outs that were initially tacked to the walls of Matisse’s apartment. The color of the print’s ground recalls the beige walls of the apartment and the imagery harks back to Matisse’s fascination with Tahiti.

Le Grand Bois
woodcut, 1906


  • The Process
    In this technique, the artist carves the wood so that the image or design is left raised, while all other areas are recessed. As it is easier to cut with the grain, rather than against it, lines are sometimes informed by the particularities of the wood used by the artist.
  • The Artist
    Matisse created three woodcuts during his career, concentrating on this method mainly from 1906-1907.
  • The Work
    Since Matisse’s woodcuts were limited in number, Le Grand Bois affords a rare look into the artist’s use of the woodblock. Throughout the print, one can even make out the wood grain of the block.

Corbeille de Bégonias I
linocut, 1938


  • The Process
    Linocut is similar to woodcut in that the artist carves the design out of the printing block, which, in this case, is composed of linoleum or linoleum mounted on wood. The raised portions of the block are seen in the final print, while the recessed areas form the negative space.
  • The Artist
    Although many similarities exist between woodcut and linocut, there are key differences. Linoleum is much easier to work with and carve—and as such, has been a more popular option for many artists, including Matisse.
  • The Work
    Few autonomous still lifes occupy the graphic oeuvre of Matisse, and his linocut Corbeille de Bégonias I stands out among them. The ease of the linocut carving belies a complex and decorative juxtaposition of curvilinear lines (seen in the vase) and geometric forms (seen in the tiled backdrop).

Glossary of Terms

  • Aquatint
    An etching process in which tone is created by treating a plate with fine particles of acid-resistant material (like powdered resin) and then placing the plate in an acid bath. The acid bites into the plate between the grains of resin and, when printed, the mass of tiny spots produces a textured area with tonal effects similar to watercolor wash.
  • Artist’s Proof/Epreuve D’artiste
    Impressions printed especially for the artist but identical to the editioned prints in every other respect. Usually appears as A.P. (artist’s proof) or E.A. (epreuve d’artiste). Where more than of these were printed Matisse frequently indicated how many, e.g. A.P. 3/5.
  • Drypoint
    An intaglio process in which a plate is marked or incised directly with a needle. The drypoint line can look very much like an etched line but is usually lighter and characterized by the existence of burr.
  • Edition
    The total number of impressions pulled off a single image or set of images from the same matrix. To this number the artist usually authorizes the addition of a small number of artist’s, printer’s, publisher’s and other proofs.
  • Etching
    An intaglio process in which a plate is treated with an acid-resistant ground. The artist then draws through the ground with various tools to expose the metal. The plate is then immersed in an acid bath where the acid "bites" or chemically dissolves the exposed lines. The metal plate is therefore "carved" or "etched" by the acid rather than by a tool directly in the metal.
  • Intaglio
    All matrices which have either been cut into or "bitten" into. The resulting "dug out" lines are printed. Intaglio processes include etching, aquatint, engraving, mezzotint and metal engravings, among others.
  • Linocut/Linoleum Cut
    A relief process, like a woodcut, where the artist carves the design out of the linoleum or linoleum mounted onto wood. What remains is printed, rather than what is cut away.
  • Lithography
    A planographic printing process where a drawing is made directly on a stone or other smooth matrix with greasy materials such as lithographic crayon. The surface is then dampened with water, which is repelled by the greasy areas. The surface is then rolled with greasy printing ink which adheres only to the greasy areas and is itself repelled by the areas which have water. The drawn image is then printed.
  • Master Printer
    A highly skilled printer who works very closely with the artist to produce the edition.
  • Monotype
    A unique image printed from an unworked, smooth, metal or glass surface painted in ink by the artist.
  • Monoprint
    A print which has as its base an etching, lithograph or woodcut and which is then uniquely altered by monotype coloring, unique inking, or choices in paper color.
  • Pochoir
    A printing process using stencils, originally used to simulate hand-coloring.
  • Woodcut
    A relief technique where the image or design is left raised above what is carved out of the wood. What is not carved is printed.
  • Signed
    Has a signature, which in Christie’s qualified opinion, is the signature of the artist.
  • Dated
    Manually dated, and in Christie’s qualified opinion was executed at about that date.
  • Foxmarks/foxing
    Foxing is mould, a microorganism which attacks paper, resulting in small yellow/brown spots.
  • Inscribed/dedicated
    Has an inscription, which in Christie’s qualified opinion, is by the hand of the artist.
  • With full margins
    The full sheet which has remained untrimmed since the time of printing.
  • Dimensions
    Measurements taken from a platemark are indicated as (P.), from a woodblock as (B.), or from the borderline of the subject as (L.). Sheet size is recorded as (S.).