Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954)
11 1/4 x 19 3/4 x 5 3/4 in. (28.6 x 50.2 x 14.6 cm)
Bequest of Florene M. Schoenborn, 1995 (1996.403.16)
© 2011 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
The posed female figure, either fully or partially dressed or in the nude, is one of the central themes in Matisse's work during the early Nice period (191730). In 1927, the year of this sculpture, he returned to the subject of the reclining odalisque, which he had first explored twenty years earlier in Reclining Nude, I (19067, bronze, Museum of Modern Art, New York). In all, Matisse modeled three successive versions of this reclining figure in plaster (in 1907, 1927, and 1929), all of which were cast in bronze. The pose of this second version, Reclining Nude, II, is more frontal, with the sinuous curve of the body now extending from her toes to her head and upraised elbow. The modeling here is also more severe; the figure's back has received bold slicing and wedge cuts. As Alfred H. Barr, Jr., so aptly observed, it appears "more monumental partly because of certain shrewd exaggerations such as the columnar left arm, partly because it is quiet rather than turbulently active." No other sculpture by Matisse so frequently appears in his paintings, where it is incorporated into still-life arrangements and room interiors.