Henri Matisse - 20th c. and Contemporary Art Day Sale - Morning Session New York Tuesday, December 8, 2020 | Phillips
  • "My line drawing is the purest and most direct translation of my emotion." —Henri MatisseMatisse famously stated that he wished to “absorb the lessons of the masters and then having done so to 'forget' those lessons in order to arrive at a means of personal expression.” i Part of the artist’s celebrated series of Odalisques executed in the 1920s, Jeune fille assise demonstrates Matisse’s ability to render the traditional wholly modern. Executed in 1928, the present work notably features a cut-out collage and as such is an early precursor of Matisse's acclaimed series of cut-outs from the 1940s.


    The Odalisque in Matisse's Art


    The Odalisque appeared throughout the 19th century art, most notably in works by Eugène Delacroix and Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. In his own exploration of the subject, Matisse did not seek to imitate his predecessors; rather, as Elizabeth Cowling explains, "in painting his make-believe harem scenes – nothing could be less authentic than the heteroclite mix of fabrics, costumes, furniture and bric-a-brac – Matisse sought to personalise and modernise the hackneyed Orientalist subjects which has first come into vogue during the Romantic period.” ii

    "My models, human figures, 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 suits her nature." —Henri Matisse

    Like many of his Odalisques, Jeune fille assise depicts a figure in lavish repose rendered through Matisse's remarkable economy of line. Subverting the traditional hierarchy in art, Matisse emphasized the importance of drawing within his oeuvre stating “my line drawing is the purest and most direct translation of my emotion.  The simplification of the medium allows that.  At the same time, these drawings are more complete than they may appear to some people who confuse them with a sketch.” iii


    Prefiguring the Cut-Outs


    There is also an immediacy present as the figure's placement at the front of the picture plane, divorced from traditional perspective, creates a sense of intimacy between Matisse’s model and the viewer. Matisse achieved this effect in the present work by innovatively using collage, eliminating all context but the essential element of the figure in her chair. The artist would again return to this method in his later celebrated series of cut-outs which he undertook beginning in the late 1940s. 

    i Jack Flam, ed., Matisse on Art, Berkeley, 1995, p. 130
    ii  Elizabeth Cowling, Matisse Picasso, exh. cat., Tate Modern, London, 2002, p. 221
    iii Jack Flam, ed., Matisse on Art, Berkeley, 1995, p. 130

    • Provenance

      Galerie J. Le Chapelin, Paris
      Private Collection, New York
      Phillips, New York, May 13, 1987, lot 29
      The Greenberg Gallery, St. Louis (acquired at the above sale)
      Acquired from above by the present owner in 1987

    • 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. 

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Jeune fille assise

signed and dated "Henri Matisse 1 Janvier 28" lower right
ink on cut-out paper, laid on paper
25.4 x 32.4 cm (10 x 12 3/4 in.)
Executed on January 1, 1928, this work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity issued by Wanda de Guébriant in 1986.

Full Cataloguing

$50,000 - 70,000 

Sold for $56,700

Contact Specialist

John McCord
Head of Day Sale, Morning Session
New York
+1 212 940 1261


20th c. and Contemporary Art Day Sale - Morning Session

New York 8 December 2020