Pensive Young Woman - Henri Matisse

Pensive Young Woman

(Cateau-Cambrésis 1869 - Nice 1954)

Pen and ink on paper
H. 525 mm; W. 405 mm
Signed and dated lower left: H Matisse 41

Date: 1941

Provenance: Waddington Galleries Ltd., London
Private collection, Switzerland, from 1985
Christie’s London, 27 June 1995, lot 194
Private collection, Germany, since July 2013

The work has been authenticated by Wanda de Guébriant.

Drawing is like making an expressive gesture with the advantage of permanence. Matisse

Unanimously considered to be one of the greatest artists of his time, Henri Matisse was one of the promotors of Fauvism, a revolution in colour at the beginning of the 20th century. However, even if colour is predominant in his work throughout his career, his art is a reflection on the line, on balance, and the synthesis of forms.

An enthusiastic draughtsman and prolific printmaker (the corpus contains over 800 prints), Matisse illustrated 17 books in the 1930s and 1940s.
His drawings from the beginning of the 1940s are characterized by clear, crisp lines with no hatching or shades, describing the purified forms of female figures and still lifes. Later, towards the end of the 1940s, the line became thicker and his forms more simplified.

In 1941, Matisse began to work on a group of 158 drawings, published under the title of in Themes and Variations 1943. In this ensemble, female figures in poses very close to our drawing can be found.

In 1940, the writer Henry de Montherlant posed for a portrait by Matisse and suggested they collaborate. Matisse had greatly admired his Pasiphaé, Chant de Minos (published in 1936), about the ancient myth of Pasiphae, wife of Minos the king of Crete, who refused to sacrifice a beautiful white bull to Poseidon. In revenge, Poseidon made Pasiphae fall in love with the beast and she gave birth to Minotaur, half-man, half-bull. Matisse began to work on the illustrations for the play as early as 1941. This intense work on a theme from Greek mythology, undoubtedly upheld the artist’s interest in purified forms such those found on ancient Greek vases of the 6th and 5th centuries B.C.

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