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Standing Blue Nude

Henri Matisse (French, Le Cateau-Cambrésis 1869–1954 Nice)

Cut and pasted painted papers
44 3/8 x 29 in. (112.7 x 73.7 cm)
Credit Line:
The Pierre and Maria-Gaetana Matisse Collection, 2002
Accession Number:
Rights and Reproduction:
© 2011 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
  • Description

    During 1952, one of Matisse's most prolific late years, he created many ambitious paper cutouts, among them the present Blue Nude. Facing front with arms raised and breasts projecting sideways, the pose recalls various standing odalisques from his Nice period of the 1920s. The simple but effective composition is built up from six disjointed pieces of blue painted paper that seem suspended in space. It represents one of a dozen or so variations on the theme that Matisse created over a period of several months. That same year, his cutouts culminated in the production of The Swimming Pool (Museum of Modern Art, New York), a gigantic, dynamic composition with multiple figures.

    The paper cutouts, prepainted with blue gouache, synthesized the intrinsic qualities of both painting and drawing-form, color, and line-and allowed the artist "to draw in paper," as he described it. This new idiom, which he had used for the first time in 1931 (while developing his large composition Dance for Dr. Albert C. Barnes), enabled him to create images in which form and outline were inseparable. During his final years, when illness left him bedridden, the cutouts became virtually his only means of expression, still exuding the master's undiminished inventiveness and creativity.

  • Signatures, Inscriptions, and Markings

    Inscription: L.R. (in black paint): .HM

  • Provenance

    The artist (1952 - his d. 1954); Estate of Henri Matisse(1955); Pierre Matisse, New York (from the estate of Henri Matisse, by 1958 - until his d. 1989); his widow, Maria-Gaetana Matisse, née von Spreti, New York (1989 - her d. 2001); Pierre and Maria Gaetana Matisse Foundation (2002; gift to MMA).

  • Exhibition History

    "Henri Matisse, 1950-1954: Les Grandes gouaches découpées," Kunsthalle, Bern, July 25-September 20, 1959, exh. cat. with introduction by Franz Meyer (in German), no. 7, ill.;

    "Henri Matisse: Les grandes gouaches découpées / de grote uitgeknipte gouaches," Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, April 29-June 20, 1960, exh. cat. (no. 237) with preface by Franz Meyer (transl. in Dutch), no. 7, ill.;

    "Henri Matisse: Les Grandes gouaches découpées," Musée des arts décoratifs, Palais du Louvre, Paris, March 22-May 15, 1961, exh. cat. by François Mathey, with introduction by Jacques Lassaigne, no. 14, pp. 49, 74, ill. p. 66 ;

    "The Last Works of Henri Matisse: Large Cut Gouaches," The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 17-December 3, 1961, Art Institute of Chicago, January 10-February 13, 1962, and San Francisco Museum of Art, March 13-April 22, 1962, exh. cat. by Monroe Wheeler, no. 10, p. 45, ill. color pl. H;

    "Henri Matisse: Retrospective 1966," UCLA Art Galleries, Los Angeles, January 5-June 26, 1966, Art Institute of Chicago, March 11-April 25, 1966, and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, May 5-July 3, 1966, exh. cat. with essays by Jean Leymarie, Herbert Read, and William S. Lieberman, no. 340;

    "Henri Matisse" (venue of UCLA 1966), Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, May 5-July 3, 1966, exh. cat. with excerpts from a letter by Henri Matisse to Mr. Henri Clifford, and "Notes of a Painter" by Henri Matisse, no. 340;

    "Henri Matisse: Paper Cut-Outs," National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., September 10-October 23, 1977, Detroit Institute of Art, November 23, 1977-January 8, 1978, Saint Louis Art Museum, January 29-March 12, 1978, exh. cat. wit introduction by Jack Cowart, essays by John Hallmark Neff, Jack Flam, and Dominique Fourcade, no. 179, ill. p. 229, & color pl. XXII, p. 78;

    "Europa de Postguerra, 1945-1965: Arte despues del diluvio," Fundacio La Caixa, Barcelona, May 12-July 30, 1995, and Künstlerhaus, Vienna, September 10-December 10, 1995, exh. cat. in Spanish and English, no. 67, pp. 73 (ill.), 456;

    "Matisse eTériade," Palazzo Medici Riccardi, Museo Mediceo, Florence, September 20-December 8, 1996, Musée Matisse, Le Cateau-Cambrésis, December 14, 1996-March 2, 1997, exh. cat. with essays by Jack Flam, Jean Leymarie, Dominique Szymusiak, and Xavier Girard, no. 121, ill. p. 215; and French edition, "Matisse et Tériade," transl. by Tania Gargiulo & Paola Tomaselli (Arceuil 1996), ibid.;

    "Matisse: La revelation m'est venue de l'Orient," Musei Capitolini and Artificio, Rome, September 19, 1997-January 19, 1998, exh. cat. by Claude Duthuit, Albert Kostenevich, Rémi Labrusse, and Jean Leymarie, no. 138, pp. 268-269, ill.;

    "Le Maroc de Matisse," Institut du monde arabe, Paris, October 19, 1999-January 30, 2000, exh. cat. with introduction by Brahim Alaoui, essays by Claude Duthuit, Rémi Labrusse, Isabelle Monod-Fontaine, Pierre Schneider, Albert Kostenevitch, Claudine Grammont, and Christine Peltre, catalogue entries by Rémi Labrusse, Evguenia Guéorgievskaïa, Isabelle Monod-Fontaine, and Pierre Schneider, no. 94, pp. 202-203, ill.;

    "Le bleu de l'été: Matisse, un siècle de couleurs," Musée Matisse, Nice, July 8-September 25, 2000, exh. cat. with essays by Marie-Thérèse Pulvenis de Seligny, ill. p. 19;

    "Matisse/Picasso," Tate Modern, London, May 11-August 18, 2002, exh. cat. by Anne Baldessari, Elizabeth Cowling, John Elderfield, John Golding, Isabelle Monod-Fontaine, Kirk Varnedoe, no. 172, pp. 316, 327, ills.;

    "Matisse/Picasso" (venue of Tate 2002) Grand Palais, Paris, September 17, 2002-January 6, 2003, exh. cat. by by Anne Baldessari, Isabelle Monod-Fontaine, Elizabeth Cowling, John Golding, John Elderfield, and Kirk Varnedoe, no. 151, ill. p. 325;

    "Matisse/Picasso," (venue of London & Paris 2002-3), The Museum of Modern Art, New York, February 13-May 19, 2003, exh. cat. by by Anne Baldessari, Isabelle Monod-Fontaine, Elizabeth Cowling, John Golding, John Elderfield, and Kirk Varnedoe, no. 172, pp. 316 (ill.), 327 (ill.);

    "The Pierre and Maria-Gaetana Matisse Collection," Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, exh. in three parts, May 18, 2004-June 26, 2005, no cat. (see MMA Bulletin 2004);

    "Matisse: Painter as Sculptor," Dallas Museum of Art and Nasher Sculpture Center, January 21-April 29, 2007, exh. cat. by Dorothy Kosinski, Jay McKean Fisher, & Steven Nash, with essays by Steven Nash, Dorothy Kosinski, Jay McKean Fisher, Ann Boulton, & Oliver Shell, and catalogue by Heather MacDonald, Jed Morse, Oliver Shell, no. 137, pp. 254, 259 (ill.), 277.

  • References

    Pierre Reverdy and Georges Duthuit, "Dernières oeuvres de Matisse, 1950-1954," Verve, vol. IX, no. 35-36 (1958), ill. p. 64; and edition in English:

    Pierre Reverdy and Georges Duthuit, Verve: The Last Works of Henri Matisse 1950-1954, transl. from the French by J.G. Weightman (New York 1958), ill. p. 64;

    Jean-François Chabrun, "Peinture : Matisse, Comme le sourire de la Joconde et le rictus de Guernica" (review of Paris 1961), L'Express (March 30, 1961), ill. ;

    Kenneth Baker, "Performing Forms: Notes on Matisse's Cutouts" (review of Washington D.C., Detroit, & Saint Louis 1977-78), Artforum, vol. 16, no. 5 (January 1978), p. 61 [general relevance];

    Jean Guichard-Meili, Les gouaches découpées de Henri Matisse (Paris 1983), no. 30, p. 62, ill. n.p.; and English transl. by David Macey, Matisse: Paper cutouts (London 1983), ibid. ;

    Gilles Néret, Matisse (Paris 1991), p. 246, ill. fig. 348;

    Gilles Néret, Henri Matisse Cut-outs (Cologne 1994), ill. p. 70;

    Gilles Néret, Henri Matisse (Cologne 1996), ill. p. 230;

    Jack D. Flam, "Matisse's Backs and the Development of His Paintings," Art Journal, vol. 30, no. 4 (Summer 1971), p. 360, ill. fig. 18;

    Magdalena Dabrowski, William S. Lieberman, and Sabine Rewald, "Selections from the Pierre and Maria-Gaetana Matisse Collection," Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 61, no. 4 (Spring 2004), pp. 40-41 (entry by MD), ill.;

    Louise Nicholson, "A Man of Infinite Taste: The Met has Bagged a Major Treasure in the Pierre Matisse Collection," Apollo (London), vol. 159 (October 2004), p. 85.

    Magdalena Dabrowski in The American Matisse: The Dealer, His Artists, His Collection. The Pierre and Maria-Gaetana Matisse Collection (New York, 2009), pp. 116-17, 163, ill.

  • See also
    In the Museum
    Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History