Pierre Matisse (1900-1989), the second son of the painter Henri Matisse, came to New York in 1924 to try his luck as an art dealer. In 1931 he opened a gallery in the Fuller Building on Fifty-seventh Street, where, for the next fifty-eight years, he introduced to America some of the best modern European art. Among the artists he championed were Mirò, Balthus, Giacometti, Dubuffet, and Tanguy.
In 1938 Matisse gave Balthus his first one-man exhibition in the States. During his annual summer visit to Paris, Matisse posed in the artist’s forbiddingly austere studio at 3, cour de Rohan. While the Frenchman was known for his reticence and reserve, Balthus depicted him as a relaxed, jaunty American businessman with a loud patterned tie in a relaxed posture.
This painting is part of the extraordinary gift of the personal collection of Pierre Matisse and of his wife, Maria-Gaetana (1943-2001), that the Metropolitan Museum received in 2002 through the generosity of Eugene Thaw and the other Trustees of the Pierre and Maria-Gaetana Matisse Foundation.
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower left): Balthus 1938
Pierre Matisse, New York (gift of the artist, 1938–d. 1989; lost for a time and found in 1991); his widow, Maria-Gaetana Matisse, née von Spreti, New York (1991–d. 2001); Pierre and Maria-Gaetana Matisse Foundation (2002; gift to MMA)
Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. "Années 30 en Europe: Le temps menaçant 1929–1939," February 20–May 25, 1997, unnumbered cat. (p. 518; as "Portrait de Pierre Matisse," lent by a private collection).
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Balthus Remembered," March 27–May 27, 2001, no catalogue.