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La fille en blanc et le bouquet
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About the item

Matisse’s post-war years in Nice were marked by substantial and sometimes dazzling innovations in his art. The unique quality of the light and relative isolation of the French Riviera provided the artist with the ideal environment in which to re-engage with figurative elements in his painting. La fille en blanc et le bouquet, executed in 1919, exhibits some of Matisse’s most crucial developments, most notably his ability to render the texture of objects, and harmonise bold colour planes with decorative patterns. From 1917 to 1932, Henri Matisse made annual expeditions to the south of France. These increasingly expansive trips ‘may have begun as a symbolic return to the adventures, challenges, and yearnings of his earlier years’ (Jack Cowart, Henri Matisse: The Early Years in Nice, 1916-1930 (exhibition catalogue), National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1986, p. 26). During a 1943 interview with the French poet Louis Aragon, Matisse expounded on his attachment to the region: ‘Nice, why Nice? In my work, I have tried to create a translucent setting for the mind. I have found the necessary limpidity in several places around the world: New York, the South Pacific, and Nice... The painters over in New York say, How can anyone paint here, with this zinc-coloured sky? But in fact it's wonderful! Everything becomes clear, translucent, exact, limpid. Nice, in this sense, has helped me’ (quoted in Jack Flam (ed.), Matisse: A Retrospective, New York, 1988, pp. 166-167).\n‘Work monopolized him from the start’, writes Hilary Spurling of this period. ‘Throughout the first months of 1919, he complained that the road lay uphill, that he was toiling like a carthorse, that his labours exhausted him and made him despair. But he had no doubt that he was on to something. “As for telling you what it will be like”, he wrote to his wife on 9th January, “that I couldn't say since it hasn't happened yet, but my idea is to push further and deeper into true painting”’ (H. Spurling, Matisse the Master, London, 2005, p. 223).\nSpurling suggests that ‘this was one of those major transitional phases when Matisse needed a model to humanise the ordeal of painting’ (ibid., p. 223). And it was Antoinette Arnoud, an elegant and intelligent nineteen year-old local girl, who fulfilled this crucial role. Matisse had previously employed his daughter Marguerite; however ill-health prevented her from joining her father in Nice in 1919. Arnoud came to the artist from Paul Audra, the head of a local art school, who had, according to Spurling, infuriated the artist by offering her to all the other leading painters in the area, including Renoir. Arnoud became Matisse’s regular model, and was the subject of numerous paintings and drawings over the following two years until she left to take up a job as a shop-girl at the Galeries Lafayette in Nice. Matisse frequently embellished his fashion-conscious model with flamboyant headpieces which he made himself out of flowers and an inexpensive straw hat (figs. 1 & 2). The setting chosen for her sittings was most often the Hôtel de la Méditerranée, whose kitsch opulence appealed to Matisse’s love of ornamentation. However aside from the interior scenes, such as Femme au chapeau (fig. 2), the artist created more intimate portrayals of his models’ characters, in which broad planes of colour replaced the dizzying patterns he otherwise employed, such as in the present work and in Le séance de peinture (fig. 3).\nDiscussing his paintings from this period Matisse wrote: ‘My models, human figures, are never just 'extras' in an interior. They are the principal theme in my work. I depend entirely on my model, whom I observe at liberty, and then I decide on the pose which best suits her nature. When I take a new model, I intuit the pose that will best suit her from her un-self-conscious attitudes of repose, and then I become the slave of that pose. I often keep those girls several years, until my interest is exhausted. My plastic signs probably express their souls (a word I dislike), which interests me subconsciously, or what else is there? Their forms are not always perfect, but they are expressive. The emotional interest aroused in me by them does not appear particularly in the representation of their bodies, but often rather in the lines or the special values distributed over the whole canvas or paper, which form its complete orchestration, its architecture. But not everyone perceives this. It is perhaps sublimated sensual pleasure, which may not yet be perceived by everyone’ (quoted in Ernst Gerhard Güse, Henri Matisse, Drawings and Sculpture, Munich, 1991, p. 22).\nThe present work was once in the collection of Georg Hartmann (1870-1954), the owner of the Bauersche Schriftgiesserei company in Frankfurt and a passionate collector and patron of the arts. He used his wealth and collection to support many cultural institutions in the city of Frankfurt, especially the Städel Museum. In 1931 Hartmann generously loaned several works from his collection, including La fille en blanc et le bouquet, to a large survey exhibition held at the Städelsches Kunstinstitut. Hartmann had both an eclectic and erudite approach to collecting. From wonderful examples of 19th and 20th Century French painting by artists such as Renoir, Gauguin, Manet and Monet to medieval stained glass and German limewood sculptures, Hartmann’s collection reflected his conviction that fine art belonged alongside objects of all ages and disciplines, and that craftsmanship should be as highly regarded as artistry. Throughout his career, Max Beckmann was supported by Hartmann, who commissioned the Apokalypse series of lithographs, which were printed in his factory, to be presented to friends as gifts. Hartmann was also instrumental in helping to place Beckmann’s early masterpieces, Die Kreuzabnahme and Christus und die Sünderin, in German museums. Following their deaccession as a result of the Entartete Kunst exhibition, these paintings where acquired by Curt Valentin and given to The Museum of Modern Art in New York and the St. Louis Art Museum respectively. From 1944 until his death in 1954, Hartmann was the Chairman of the Verwaltungsausschuss des Freien Deutschen (the municipal committee governing the surrounding area of Frankfurt) and led the regeneration project for the Goethehaus, helping it to flourish into the foremost memorial to Goethe in Germany.\nSigned Henri Matisse (lower left)
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GB
GB

medium

Oil on canvas

creator

Henri Matisse

condition

The canvas is unlined. There are a few tiny spots of retouching in the woman's face and a few further scattered tiny spots of retouching, visible under ultra-violet light. Apart from a faint stretcher mark at the top, this work is in very good condition. Colours: Overall fairly accurate in the printed catalogue illustration, although slightly fresher and more contrasted in the original. "In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective, qualified opinion. Prospective buyers should also refer to any Important Notices regarding this sale, which are printed in the Sale Catalogue. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD AS IS" IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF BUSINESS PRINTED IN THE SALE CATALOGUE."

dimensions

65.5 by 50.5cm.

exhibition

Frankfurt, Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Vom Abbild zum Sinnbild: Ausstellung von Meisterwerken moderner Malerei, 1931, no. 161 (titled Junges Mädchen mit Blumenstrauss)

literature

Guy-Patrice & Michel Dauberville, Henri Matisse chez Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, 1995, vol. II, no. 308, illustrated p. 768 Andreas Hansert, Georg Hartmann (1870-1954). Biographie eines Frankfurter Schriftgiessers, Bibliophilen und Kunstmäzens, Vienna, Cologne & Weimar, 2009, mentioned p. 66

provenance

Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris (acquired from the artist on 23rd June 1919) Galerie Aktuaryus, Zurich (acquired from the above on 19th August 1919) Georg Hartmann, Frankfurt (acquired by 1931) Thence by descent to the present owners

signedDate

Signed Henri Matisse (lower left)

time_period

Painted in 1919.

consignmentDesignation

Property from a Private European Collection

creator_nationality_dates

1869 - 1954





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