Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954)
23 1/4 x 7 1/2 x 7 1/2 in. (59.1 x 19.1 x 19.1 cm)
The Pierre and Maria-Gaetana Matisse Collection, 2002 (2002.456.115)
© 2011 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Although Matisse is best known as a painter, his activities as a sculptor extended through most of his career and resulted in some eighty pieces; the majority are bronzes cast from plaster models. In the 1890s, as an art student in Paris, he had studied and drawn from casts and sculptures in the Louvre as was the academic custom, and his earliest known sculpture-in-the-round (18991901) is a study after Antoine-Louis Barye's 1852 bronze, Jaguar Devouring a Hare, from that museum. Soon he began to sculpt compositions of his own devising, focusing exclusively on the human body, most often female, which was the primary subject for his paintings, drawings, and prints as well. The two periods of his greatest sculptural production were 19001913 and 192232.
Madeleine, I (1901) and Madeleine, II (1903) are typical of his early figurative work. In both, the serpentine stance of the nude model is accentuated, and she appears momentarily caught by the viewer's gaze, before moving around. The spontaneity of Matisse's first version, sculpted from life in his studio, is not lost in his second version, which has a rougher, more staccato surface that captures light and reflects it back as visual movement. As with other of his sculptures developed in a series, Matisse maintained his initial sensation, while progressively increasing its effect with each subsequent variation.