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Woman with Mandolin

Femme à la mandoline

"Ah! Nice is a beautiful place! What a gentle and soft light in spite of its brightness!" wrote Henri Matisse to the painter Charles Camoin (1879-1965). The Woman with Mandolin is typical of Matisse’s work in Nice at this period, and of the gentle light he mentions. We can situate the setting of this painting exactly. It is the apartment that the artist occupied on the place Charles-Félix in Nice, and where he had two studios overlooking the sea front. The open window allows the painting to open up on to the Quai des Etats-Unis, the beach, the sea and the sky. In the centre of the composition, a young woman stands with her back to the window, holding a small mandolin in her left hand. Her reflection, seen in the glass of the window, gives her a double presence. The motifs on her blouse also echo the decorative patterns of the wallpaper. The window is a recurrent theme in Matisse’s work, enabling him to open up the space in his painting or introduce a painting within a painting. Similarly, musical instruments are found in many of Matisse’s other paintings, particularly those from his time in Nice when music played an important role in the painter’s daily life.

Provenance: Bernheim-Jeune (achat à Matisse le 15 janvier 1923); Druet (vendu le même jour, 15 janvier 1923); Paul Guillaume en 1930 ; Domenica Walter