Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse
© Photo CNAC/MNAM Dist. RMN - Georges Meguerditchian © CNAC/MNAM Dist. RMN / Georges Meguerditchian
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Henri Matisse trained in Gustave Moreau’s studio at the National School of Fine Arts and was briefly drawn to the theories of neoimpressionism. During the summer of 1905, which he spent in Collioure in André Derain’s company, Matisse abandoned divisionism to seek intensity of color in confrontation of colored surfaces. At the 1905 Autumn Salon, Matisse emerged as Fauvism’s leading light. Then his art’s decorative aspects started to assert themselves, in his painted works as well as in large-scale sculptures.
Over the course of the years, the art dealer and collector Paul Guillaume, who had held a Matisse-Picasso exhibition in his gallery in 1918, acquired a series of large canvases painted in the 1910s along with several rather more peaceful works from the 1920s. His widow, Domenica Walter-Guillaume, only kept paintings essentially produced in the artist’s Nice period (1917-1929).
After settling in Nice, Matisse renewed his canvases’ motifs and language. “I do odalisques in order to paint nudes” (1) he stated in 1929. He painted a great many odalisques in the 1920s, drawing on the painters Jean-Dominique Ingres and Théodore Chassériau, but his inspiration was misunderstood by the critics, who compared them to a “wallpaper dealer’s display” in 1927. The Odalisque à la culotte rouge (Odalisque with Red Culottes), Odalisque à la culotte grise (Odalisque with Grey Culottes), Odalisque bleue (Blue Odalisque) and Nu drapé étendu (Draped Nude Reclining) bear witness to these domesticated audacities and Matisse’s decorative obsession, as do his canvases developing the theme of interiors: ( La Jeune Fille et le vase de fleurs (Young Girl with the Vase of Flowers) Femmes au canapé (Women on a Sofa) and Le Boudoir (The Boudoir)). The Museum also possesses some very fine portraits of young women from this period, including Les Trois Sœurs (The Three Sisters), which echoes the canvases at the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, Femme à la mandoline (Woman with a Mandolin) and  Femme au violon (Woman with a Violin).

(1) Interview with the critic and publisher Tériade, in “Visit to Henri Matisse”, l’Intransigeant, February 14-22, 1929

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