Henri Matisse - 20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale London Wednesday, June 29, 2022 | Phillips

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  • Although the great master of modernity Henri Matisse is more commonly known for his practice as a painter, he was none the less an eminent sculptor. The art of modeling figures in clay was central in the development of his ideas and conception of the representation of the human form. As he himself said about his practice as a sculptor: ‘I took up sculpture because what interested me in painting was a clarification of my ideas. I changed my method, and worked in clay in order to have a rest from painting where I had done all I could for the time being. That is to say that it was done for the purposes of organisation, to put order in my feelings, and find a style to suit me. When I found it in sculpture, it helped me in my painting. It was always in view of a complete possession of my mind, a sort of hierarchy of all my sensations, that I kept working in the hope of finding an ultimate method.’i This culminated in masterpieces like Nu allongé I (Aurore), 1907 or the four monumental versions of Nu de dos which Matisse executed over two decades from 1909 to 1930.
     
    Like many of his contemporaries, Matisse first looked at the art of Auguste Rodin and worked together with Antoine Bourdelle, one of Rodin’s leading pupils, at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière. His earliest sculptures are evidently indebted to these charismatic figures of the Parisian art scene but Matisse quickly distanced himself and took on his own route as fellow fauve artiste Jean Puy stated: ‘Matisse worked laboriously… a sculpture which sprang from a conception close to that of Rodin, became something else, more rugged and partially mishappen, but extremely expressive.’ii

     

    It was during his fauve period which emerged from 1905 onwards that Matisse created a series of small expressive heads, some of which represent close relatives and friends, or, like our Petite Tête aux cheveux striés, a portrait of an unidentified woman with strong facial features and an elaborate hairdo.

     

    Further to the influence of his contemporaries, Matisse was also influenced in his process by art from Africa, of which he was an early collector, and from ancient civilizations from the Mediterranean. The aquiline features of Petite Tête aux cheveux striés and Grecian hairdo is surely a result of Matisse’s frequent visits to the Louvre where he could admire ancient Greek artefacts.

     

    Terracotta head of a woman, late 4th century B.C., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mary and Michael Jaharis, in honor of Thomas P. Campbell, 2013
    Terracotta head of a woman, late 4th century B.C., The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Image: © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mary and Michael Jaharis, in honor of Thomas P. Campbell, 2013

     

    In the present work, the model’s hyper-stylised hair is exemplary of sculptures from the Baule people of the Ivory Coast. This is especially striking in their sculpted wooden figures, of which Matisse owned a superb example that he discovered at the Ethnographic museum of the Trocadéro in Paris. ‘Throughout 1906-8, Matisse shuttled back and forth between Africa and the Mediterranean. In this period, he made two small heads that have the look of archeological fragments; the terracotta version of the Hieratic Small head with upswept hair (1906-7)’ -another title for our Petite Tête aux cheveux striés – ‘in particular, appears as it has been dug up in the 20th Century, rather than created in it.’iii Such sculptures were often found in the collections of artists drawing inspiration for their practice. 

     

    Female figure, Cote d’Ivoire, mid 20th Century, Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami. Image: © Lowe Art Museum / Gift of an Anonymous Donor / Bridgeman Images
    Female figure, Cote d’Ivoire, mid 20th Century, Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami. Image: © Lowe Art Museum / Gift of an Anonymous Donor / Bridgeman Images


    Although conceived in 1906-7, Petite Tête aux cheveux striés was cast in 1953 by the renowned Valsuani foundry one year before the artist’s death. It then entered the prestigious collection of Theodor Ahrenberg, one of the most significant modern art collections in Sweden and Europe which also included works by Picasso, Léger, Braque, Giacometti. He came to know Matisse personally and acquired an almost complete set of his bronzes. Subsequently our work was sold in 1960 at auction along with 48 other bronzes by Matisse from the collection. It then also came into the hands of Eric Estorick, a no less prestigious collector and dealer in post-war London. 

     

    i Henri Matisse in conversation with Pierre Courthion, quoted in J. Guichard-Meili, Matisse, New York, 1967, p. 168
    ii Jean Puy, ‘Souvenirs’, Le Point, vol. 4, no. 3, July 1939, p. 19
    iii Ellen Mc Breen, Matisse’s Sculpture The Pinup and the primitive, New Haven, 2014, p. 83

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    • Description

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    • Provenance

      Mr and Mrs Theodor Ahrenberg, Stockholm
      Sotheby’s, London, 7 July 1960, lot 14
      Eric Estorick (Grosvenor Galleries), London
      The Bruton Street Gallery, London
      Acquired from the above by the present owner

    • Exhibited

      Kunsthaus Zurich, Henry Matisse, Das plastiche Werk, 14 July – 12 August 1959, no. 18 (another example exhibited)
      London, Grosvenor Gallery, Mixed Sculpture and Gutfreund drawings, February 1966, no. 7 (another example exhibited)
      Los Angeles, UCLA Art Galleries; The Art Institute of Chicago; Boston, Museum of Fine Arts, Henri Matisse Retrospective 1966, 5 January - 26 June 1966, no. 107, p. 129 (another example exhibited and illustrated, p. 128)
      London, The Bruton Street Gallery, The Sculpture Show, 2001

    • Literature

      Albert E. Elsen, The Sculpture of Henri Matisse, New York, 1972, no. 158, p. 119 (another example illustrated)
      The Sculpture of Matisse, exh. cat., The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1972, no. 20, p. 51 (another example listed and illustrated, p. 14)
      Isabelle Monod-Fontaine, The Sculpture of Henri Matisse, London, 1984, no. 22, p. 146 (another example illustrated, p.61)
      Claude Duthuit, Henri Matisse: Catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre sculpté, Paris, 1994, no. 28 (another example illustrated, pp. 60-61)
      Claude Duthuit, Henri Matisse: Catalogue raisonné de l’oeuvre sculpté, Paris, 1997, no. 28, pp. 70-72 (illustrated, p. 71)
      Dorothy Kosinski, Jay Mckean Fisher and Steven Nash, Matisse painter as sculptor, The Baltimore Museum of Art, the Dallas Museum of Art and the Nasher Sculpture Centre, 2007, fig. 67, p. 74 (original terracotta illustrated)
      Ellen McBreen, Matisse's Sculpture: The Pinup and the Primitive, New York, 2014, no. 75 and 76, p. 82 (original terracotta illustrated)

    • 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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165

Petite Tête aux cheveux striés

signed with the artist's initials ‘HM’ lower left of the neck
bronze
12.8 x 6.7 x 6.8 cm (5 x 2 5/8 x 2 5/8 in.)
Conceived in 1906-1907 and cast in bronze by Fonte Valsuani in 1953, this work is number 9 from an edition of 10.

Phillips wishes to thank Georges Matisse who has kindly confirmed the authenticity of the work.

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Estimate
£100,000 - 150,000 

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20th Century & Contemporary Art Day Sale

London Auction 29 June 2022