Having trained at the École Nationale des Beaux Arts in the studio of Gustave Moreau (1826-1898), Henri Matisse (1869-1954) was briefly tempted by the theories of Neo-Impressionism. He spent the summer of 1905 in Collioure with Derain (1880-1954), which was, for him, a "trial by fire" and the liberation of colour. At the Salon d’Automne in 1905, Matisse emerged as the leader of the Fauves. It was then that he established the decorative element of his art in his painted works as well as in his large-scale sculptures.
Over the course of the years, the dealer and collector Paul Guillaume, who organised a Matisse-Picasso exhibition in his gallery in 1918, put together a collection of large paintings from 1910 onwards, with some calmer works from the 1920s. His widow Domenica kept only ten, essentially those from the painter’s Nice period (1917-1929).
Once settled in Nice, Matisse brought new motifs and a new idiom to his paintings. "I paint odalisques in order to paint the nude" (1) he declared in 1929 in a conversation with the critic and publisher, Tériade. He produced many odalisques, taking his inspiration from both Ingres (1780-1867) and Chassériau (1819-1856), but his new direction was not understood by the critics at the time who, in 1927, compared them to a "display in a wallpaper shop". The Odalisque à la culotte rouge [Odalisque with Red Trousers], Odalisque à la culotte gris [Odalisque in Grey Trousers], Odalisque bleue [Blue Odalisque] and the Nu drapé étendu [Draped Nude Reclining] all demonstrate a taming of Matisse’s audaciousness, as well as his obsession with decoration. The paintings in the Musée de l’Orangerie, develop similarly the theme of the interior (La jeune fille [Young Girl], Femmes au canapé [Women on a Sofa] and Le boudoir). The Museum also has some very beautiful portraits of young women from this period, Les trois sœurs [The Three Sisters], which recalls the paintings in the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, the Femme à la mandoline [Woman with Mandolin], and the Femme au violon [Woman with Violin].
(1) Entretien avec Tériade, in "Visite à Henri Matisse", l’Intransigeant, 14-22 février 1929