Henri Matisse - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale New York Thursday, November 16, 2017 | Phillips

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  • Video

    The Illusion of Calm in Henri Matisse’s Jeune fille accoudée

    Dr. Charles Stuckey, art historian and former Curator of Modern Painting, National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. discusses Henri Matisse’s Jeune fille accoudée. Executed in 1938, the carefully-maintained illusion of calm is belied by the frenetic lines that have been built up, erased and revisited in the long execution of the picture, an insight into the artist's rigorous working methods.

  • Provenance

    Fernand C. Graindorge, Liège
    Galerie Beyeler, Basel
    Acquired from the above by the present owner on October 1, 1980

  • Exhibited

    Hamburg Kunsthalle, Französische Zeichnungen des XX Jahrhunderts, September 3 - November 15, 1959, no. 198, pl. 21 (illustrated)
    Lyngby Radhus, Tegninger, Akvareller, Collager zu Fernand C. Graindorge Samling, October 30 - November 28, 1965, no. 22
    St. Paul de Vence, Fondation Maeght, A la rencontre de Matisse, July - September, 1969, no. 38, n.p. (illustrated)
    Darmstadt, 3. Internationale der Zeichnung – Gustav Klimt/Henri Matisse, August 15 – November 11, 1970, no. 31, p. 140 (illustrated)
    Basel, Galerie Beyeler, Matisse, huiles, gouaches découpées, dessins, sculptures, June - September, 1980, no. 22, n.p. (illustrated)

  • Catalogue Essay

    Henri Matisse’s Jeune fille accoudée is an image of sensuous, elegant languor which draws the viewer into the artist’s unique universe. That carefully-maintained illusion of calm is belied by the frenetic lines that have been built up, erased and revisited in the long execution of the picture, an insight into Matisse’s rigorous working methods. This picture, executed in 1938, shows one of the motifs that preoccupied Matisse repeatedly during his distinguished career, and in particular in the late 1930s: the seated woman. Jeune fille accoudée clearly relates to a group of drawings that Matisse made as he explored the subject matter that he would use in the upper portion of Le chant, the fireplace decoration he created for Nelson A. Rockefeller’s apartment in New York; a drawing related to both works is now in the permanent collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Acquired by Anne Marie and Julian J. Aberbach from the Galerie Beyeler, Jeune fille accoudée was formerly in the collection of Fernand Graindorge, one of the most important Belgian promoters of modern art in the 20th century.

    Filled with elegance and redolent of odalisques, Jeune fille accoudée plunges us into the make-believe realm that Matisse conjured in his various studios. The drawing was created in his new apartment at the former Hôtel Régina, in Nice, France. This was an architectural icon in the neighborhood of Cimiez that had fallen on hard times and had only recently been divided into various residences, of which Matisse was the first occupant. Within its generous spaces, Matisse created the bucolic, elegant world glimpsed in Jeune fille accoudée and recently celebrated in the exhibition Matisse in the Studio at the Royal Academy, London. Plants, carpets, art and furniture combined to fashion a space that echoed salons, harems and artists’ studios all at once. The scene could be set and changed at will, according to the composition or ambience that Matisse himself sought. Similarly, he had recently acquired six extravagant dresses, which became staples of his compositions in the coming years, and that were worn as costumes by a number of his models. It is doubtless one of these that appears in Jeune fille accoudée.

    While Jeune fille accoudée clearly stands as an artwork in its own right, it also relates to Matisse’s seminal work Le chant, 1938, which was commissioned by Nelson A. Rockefeller, the scion of one of the most prominent dynasties in the United States who would later become Governor of New York and then Vice-President of the United States under Gerald Ford. Matisse was selected alongside Fernand Léger to create a work to complement the fireplaces in Rockefeller’s curved living room; these mantelpieces now reside with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, both having previously been in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York. While Léger travelled to New York in order to fulfill his commission, Matisse notably instead had a full-scale model of the fireplace created, around which he could work in the comfort of his own studio in the Hôtel Régina.

    Matisse used the same two models for all four figures in Le chant: his studio assistant, secretary and muse, Lydia Delektorskaya, and her young friend and fellow Russian émigré, Princess Hélène Galitzine. In Jeune fille accoudée, the features appear to relate to the latter, who served as the subject for a string of Matisse’s masterpieces from this period, including Odalisque à la robe persane jaune, anémones of the previous year, now in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. As Jeune fille accoudée demonstrates, Le chant provided Matisse with the pretext for an exploration of a theme he had already begun to mine in a recent picture, Le jardin d’hiver, also known as Deux personnages féminins et le chien, which was acquired by Joseph Pulitzer. That picture shows two women lounging on chairs in a conservatory, one of them with a book on her lap. The woman in Jeune fille accoudée resembles the left-hand figure, although the orientation is reversed. After the completion of the Jardin d’hiver, Matisse focused increasingly on the image of a woman leaning on a chair as in Jeune fille accoudée.

    In Le chant, 1938,the leaning woman from Jeune fille accoudée has become part of a larger composition: she is here part of the small audience for the singing that is taking place in the lower part of the fireplace composition. Matisse would repeatedly adjust the composition for this figure. In one drawing, formerly owned by the artist Zao Wou-Ki, the pose finally adopted by the left-hand figure was explored in the opposite orientation, indicating that it may have originally served as a concept for the right-hand figure.

    In other drawings, Matisse focused increasingly on variations in the arm positions for the right-hand figure in Le chant, 1938. In the final composition, the woman’s head was cradled in both her hands, her elbows leaning in front of her; this was already present in a less stylized drawing executed in a style reminiscent of Jeune fille accoudée and showing both of the upper figures, now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Dating from November 1938, when Matisse was approaching a pictorial solution for the fireplace, that image nonetheless appears closely related to Jeune fille accoudée in its presentation of the right-hand figure, not least with the diagonal hatching of the chair. By contrast, in the drawings that Matisse had created at the end of October, the previous month, the right-hand woman’s hands were shown in other positions, for instance resting on the chair without her head leaning on them at all. This implies that Jeune fille accoudée may have served as some form of transition between these states. At the same time, the presence of the artist’s signature ensures that the viewer is in no doubt as to its autonomy as a work of art in its own right – it is both standalone, and part of an arcing narrative of creation and inspiration.

  • Artist Biography

    Henri Matisse

    French • 1869 - 1954

    The leading figure of the Fauvist movement at the turn of the 20th century, Henri Matisse is widely regarded as the giant of modern art alongside friend and rival Pablo Picasso. Working as a painter, draughtsman, printmaker and sculptor for over five decades, he radically challenged traditional conventions in art by experimenting with vivid colors, flat shapes and distilled line. Rather than modeling or shading to lend volume to his pictures, the French artist employed contrasting areas of unmodulated color. Heavily influenced by the art and visual culture of non-Western cultures, his subjects ranged from nudes, dancers, odalisques, still lifes and interior scenes and later evolved into the graphic semi-abstractions of his cut-outs of his late career. 

    View More Works

Property from the Estate of Mrs. Anne Marie Aberbach


Jeune fille accoudée

signed and dated “Henri Matisse 38” lower left
charcoal on paper
25 x 15 1/2 in. (63.5 x 39.4 cm.)
Executed in 1938, this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity signed by Marguerite Duthuit.

$900,000 - 1,200,000 

Sold for $1,095,000

Contact Specialist
Amanda Lo Iacono
Head of Evening Sale
New York
+1 212 940 1278

20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale

New York Auction 16 November 2017