Two Matisses for the Musée national d’art moderne

25/10/13 - Acquisitions - Paris, Musée national d’art moderne - Two works by Matisse have just joined the Centre Pompidou, thanks to a donation from Barbara Duthuit, wife of Claude Duthuit, the artist’s grandson, who passed away in 2011 : a 1910 oil entitled Marguerite with a Black Cat (ill. 1) along with a large composition of gouache painted paper cut-outs from 1948, preparatory for the stained-glass window La Jérusalem céleste [New Jerusalem] (ill. 2).

1. Henri Matisse (1869-1954)
Marguerite with a Black Cat, 1910
Oil on canvas - 94 x 64 cm
Paris, Centre Pompidou
Photo : Georges Meguerditchian,
Centre Pompidou /RMNGP
© Succession H. Matisse

2. Henri Matisse (1869-1954)
The New Jerusalem, 1948
Gouache painted paper cutouts - 270 x 130 cm
Paris, Centre Pompidou
Photo : Philippe Migeat,
Centre Pompidou /RMNGP
© Succession H. Matisse

Marguerite was in fact the artist’s daughter who sat for him several times, appearing notably in two bust portraits produced in 1906-1907 ; one is at the Musée Picasso, the other in the Marion Smooke Collection. In the Centre Pompidou painting, she was fifteen years old and poses face on, seated on a chair, the cat on her lap a simple black spot. Two discreet pieces of jewelry catch our eye : the brooch and the ring. The centering of the picture stops at the knees and the composition is defined by large color blocks.
Between 1908 and 1911, Matisse painted several women’s portraits which are more or less comparable to this one : though Algerian Woman (also residing at the Centre Pompidou) adopts a similar seated position with her hands on her lap, the body is more supple and stands out against a decorative background. In the same way, The Girl with Green Eyes, represented in bust form but not down to the knees, also holds an exotic touch, dressed in a Chinese tunic which is enhanced by an animated background. However, other female figures are presented in the same understated way as Marguerite, seated, hands on their lap, the space behind them split into two color blocks, notably Olga Merson (1911) in Houston and Girl with Tulips (1910) from the Hermitage which also holds Woman in Green (1909). How does Matisse bestow this undefinable charm on his model ? "I give her grace, charm and the idea is to give her something more. I condense the significance of the body, by looking for the essential lines. The charm will be less apparent at first glance, but it should emerge over time from the new image I will have obtained, and which will have a bigger significance, more fully human. The charm will be less striking, not being the only characteristic, but it will exist just the same, contained within the general conception of my figure."
The second work donated to the museum is a small-size model for the stained-glass window of La Jérusalem céleste at the Dominican chapel in Vence, also known as the chapel of the Rosary, which the master himself considered the ultimate masterpiece of his art. The Musée Matisse in Cateau-Cambrésis [1] recently highlighted this technique of cut-up colors by Matisse, following the donation made by the artist’s family of 443 gouache painted paper cut-outs which were not used in his works.

Version française

Bénédicte Bonnet Saint-Georges, vendredi 25 octobre 2013


[1] Le Cateau-Cambrésis, Musée Matisse, "Matisse, la couleur découpée. Une donation révélatrice", from 3 March to 9 June 2013.

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