In September of 1921, Matisse returned from his summer holiday in Etretat to Nice. Having previously taken rooms at the Hôtel Méditerranée, he decided to rent an apartment at 1, place Charles-Félix:
Matisse's status was modifying itself to that of a resident. The taking of the place Charles-Félix apartment was a major step in personal, physical and creative attachment that would bind the artist to Nice and the Côte d'Azur until his death ... Matisse now had large demountable frames that would support the selected decorative fabrics he used as backdrops. In effect, the artist had a portable theater in these spaces. In the larger room, with his sets, models and costumes, he could focus toward the interior of the room. (J. Cowart, exh. cat. for Henri Matisse: The early years in Nice, 1916-1930, Washington, D.C., 1986, pp. 29-30
In contrast to the soft, naturalistic style of the early 1920s, a more vigorous approach prevailed in Matisse's paintings during the middle of the decade. Within intimate domestic settings, the artist interweaves flat areas of bright color with light and patterns, and includes models to heighten the sense of human drama. The artist blurs the distinction between figure-ground relationships, which enlivens the surface and distorts the normal references to space. There is often no single focal point. These carefully contrived, yet spontaneously domestic, environments display a fresh confidence and mastery of his subject. During the spring of 1927 through 1931:
The works of this period will be the high-contrast paintings of odalisques and decorative screens, with samovar, a rococo table, a Turkish chair, checkerboard, and some of the grand floral hangings ... These striking paintings are the fullest realization of Matisse's thesis on pattern, decoration, and the odalisque placed in his "brewing tensions". He surely enjoyed the deceptive game he played with this conflict between reality, appearance and art and dreaming and waking. These paintings are fantasies in the best sense of the word. (J. Coward, op.cit., p. 37)
Harmonie Jaune was painted from late 1927-early 1928 at 1, place Charles-Félix just after he had moved from the third floor apartment to a larger top floor space. His new surroundings had a marked effect on his work, because he now had more room in which to work as well as a large window which allowed the studio to be bathed in light. Along with this larger apartment he hired new models: Lisette, Hélène, Lily, Loulon, Zita and her sister. Here the model Zita is posed asleep or perhaps just at rest. Her mysterious presence is one of many elements or props contributing to the overall polyphony of the composition.
The Harmony in Yellow is reminiscent even in the title of the great Harmony in Blue of 1908 and its sequel the Harmony in Red, 1909 (fig. 1). The composition of the three pictures poses the same general problem and involves the same elements: the table with still life on it, the figure at the right, and the background formed of a large and very bold decorative pattern. The pink-and-yellow-bordered blue pattern used in the 1928 painting is actually based on the same original as that in the Decorative Figure on an Oriental Background (fig. 2), but here it is simplified and kept in place largely by masking it down the center by a yellow and white curtain. Yellow appears again around the checkerboard and the stripes of the figures costume. The tray is yellow green, the vase a green blue. In spite of its flat, bright color and active design, tact and taste and virtuosity have largely reasserted themselves in the Harmony in Yellow (A. Barr Jr., op.cit., p. 215).
Whereas the human presence is usually dominant in Matisse's interiors, especially, in his series of odalisques which he painted in Nice, the reticence of the model in Harmonie jaune hints at a more subtle and psychologically charged interpretation of the normal relationships between figures and objects in an interior setting. While she is visually relegated to the side and rear of the composition, Zita's "unpainted" daydream fills every corner of the room.
Matisse's own comment that the display in these pictures "should not delude us," for within their torpid atmosphere "there is a great tension brewing, a tension of a specifically pictorial order, a tension that comes from the interplay an interelationships of elements. But patterns alone will suffice to distract our attention from the figural illustration, and we begin to see what he means by sublimating the emotional charge of the figures into the pictorial architecture of the whole. (J. Elderfield, exh. cat. for Henri Matisse, A Retrospective, New York, 1992, p. 37).
HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)
Signed and dated bottom left Henri Matisse 28--oil on canvas
The Property of
A EUROPEAN PRIVATE COLLECTOR
Signed and dated bottom left Henri Matisse 28--oil on canvas
Since this painting is included in the current Matisse retrospective exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York (MOMA), it will be on view on Christie's premises only on Tuesday, November 10 and Wednesday, November 11. The painting will be returned to MOMA promptly following the auction, where it will remain for the duration of the Matisse exhibition.
Berlin, Galerie Thannhauser, Henri Matisse, Feb.-March, 1930
Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, Henri Matisse, June-July, 1931,
Basel, Kunsthalle, Henri Matisse, Aug.-Sept., 1931, no. 108
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Henri Matisse, Nov.-Dec., 1931, no. 74 (illustrated)
Chicago, The Art Institute, A Century of Progress: Exhibition of Paintings and Sculpture, June-Nov., 1933, no. 392
New York, Pierre Matisse Gallery, Henri Matisse, Paintings, Jan.-Feb., 1934, no. 10
Stockholm, Foreningen for Nutida Konst, A Private Collection, 1945, no. 59 (illustrated)
Stockholm, Liljevalchs Konsthall, Cézanne till Picasso, Sept., 1954, no. 246
Paris, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Henri Matisse, éxposition rétrospective, July-Nov., 1956, no. 76
Copenhagen, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, A Private Collection, 1959,
Paris, Grand Palais, Henri Matisse, exposition du centenaire, April-Sept., 1970, no. 178 (illustrated, p. 233)
Copenhagen, Statens Museum for Kunst, Matisse, Oct.-Nov., 1970,
no. 53 (illustrated)
Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Matisse huiles, gouaches, découpées, dessins, sculptures, June-Sept., 1980, no. 18 (illustrated)
Stockholm, National Museum, A Private Collection, 1981, p. 92 (illustrated, p. 93)
Zurich, Kunsthaus, Henri Matisse, Oct., 1982-Jan., 1983, no. 74 (illustrated). The exhibition traveled to Dusseldorf, Stadtische Kunsthalle, Jan.-April, 1983.
Stockholm, Moderna Museet, Henri Matisse, Nov., 1984-Jan., 1985,
Lausanne, Fondation de l'Hermitage, De Cézanne à Picasso dans les collections Romandes, June-Oct., 1985, no. 83 (illustrated on the cover)
Washington, D.C., National Gallery of Art, Henri Matisse, The Early Years in Nice, 1916-1930, Nov., 1986-March, 1987, no. 160, p. 328 (illustrated, pl. 160, p. 222)
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Henri Matisse: A Retrospective, Sept., 1992-Jan., 1993, p. 350, no. 282 (illustrated)
34 5/8 x 34 5/8 in. (88 x 88 cm.)
F. Fels, 'Propos d'artistes', La Renaissance du livre, Paris, 1929, p. 20 (illustrated)
F. Neugass, 'Henri Matisse 1869-1929', Deutsche Kunst und Decoration, no. 6, March, 1929, vol. 32, pp. 372-380, p. 12 (illustrated)
A.C. Barnes and V. de Mazia, The Art of Henri Matisse, Merion, 1933, pp. 49, 103, 115, 126 and 196
M. Morsell, 'Finely Arranged Matisse Exhibit Now on Display', The Art News, no. 17, Jan. 27, 1934, vol. 32, p. 4
Mushakojo, Henri Matisse 1890-1939, Tokyo, 1939, no. 201 (illustrated, p. 99)
A.H. Barr Jr., Matisse: His Art and His Public, New York, 1951,
p. 215 (illustrated, p. 451)
G. Diehl, Henri Matisse, Paris 1954, p. 83
I. Grünewald, Matisse och Expressionismen, Stockholm, 1964 (illustrated)
M. Luzi and M. Carrà, L'opera di Matisse, dalla rivolia fauve alltintimismo, 1904-1928, Milan, 1971, p. 105, no. 460 (illustrated, p. 104)
P. Schneider, M. Carrà and X. Derying, Tout l'oeuvre peint de Matisse 1904-1928, Paris, 1982, p. 105, no. 460 (illustrated, p. 104) P. Schneider, Matisse, Paris, 1984, pp. 35, 36, 400 and 534
Exh. cat., Henri Matisse, Louisiana Museet, Humlebaek, 1985,
Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above in the autumn of 1933