HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)
HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)
HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)
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HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)
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HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)

Nature morte au purro, I

HENRI MATISSE (1869-1954)
Nature morte au purro, I
signed 'Henri Matisse' (lower right)
oil on canvas
23 ½ x 28 7⁄8 in. (60.4 x 73.3 cm.)
Painted in Saint-Tropez in 1904
Galerie Druet, Paris.
Gustave Fayet, Paris (acquired from the above, 4 October 1906).
Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Paris (acquired from the above, 18 December 1908).
Alphonse Kahn, Paris (acquired from the above, 29 December 1908, until at least 1910).
Jean Laroche, Paris; his sale, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 8 December 1928, lot 59.
Galerie Etienne Bignou, Paris (acquired at the above sale).
Mr. and Mrs. J.B.A. Kessler, London (by 1929).
The Lefevre Gallery (Alex. Reid & Lefevre), London (acquired from the above, 1958).
Acquired from the above by the Phillips family, 14 April 1958.
C. Zervos, Matisse, Paris, 1931, p. 30 (illustrated, fig. 20).
A.H. Barr, Jr., Matisse: His Art and His Public, New York, 1951, pp. 59, 86 and 314 (illustrated, p. 314).
G. Diehl, Henri Matisse, Paris, 1958, pp. 22-23.
J. Leymarie, L'Espressionismo e il Fauvismo, Milan, 1967, pp. 243 and 275 (illustrated).
J. Flam, Matisse on Art, New York, 1973, pp. 11 and 24 (illustrated, fig. 12).
A. Izerghina, Henri Matisse: Paintings and Sculptures in Soviet Museums, Leningrad, 1978, p. 133 (illustrated).
C.C. Bock, Henri Matisse and Neo-Impressionism: 1898-1908, Ann Arbor, Michigan, 1981, pp. 38 and 63.
P. Schneider, M. Carrà and X. Deryng, Tout l'œuvre peint de Matisse: 1904-1928, Paris, 1982, p. 86, no. 31 (illustrated).
J. Rewald, The John Hay Whitney Collection, exh. cat., National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1983, p. 119.
J. Flam, Matisse: The Man and His Art, 1869-1918, Paris, 1986, pp. 110 and 120 (illustrated, p. 110, fig. 92).
J. Rewald, Studies in Post-Impressionism, New York, 1986, pp. 261-262 and 289 (illustrated, p. 262, fig. 60).
G.-P. and M. Dauberville, Matisse, Paris, 1995, p. 378, no. 54 (illustrated, p. 379).
S. Monneret, Matisse: His Life and Complete Works, New York, 1995, p. 88, no. 33 (illustrated).
H. Spurling, Unknown Matisse, New York, 1998, pp. 283-284.
J.P. Monery, Henri Matisse: Emerveillement pour le Sud, exh. cat., Musée de Saint Tropez, 2004, pp. 34 and 37.
M. Korn, Collecting Paintings by Matisse and by Picasso, New York, 2004, p. 123.
R. Labrusse and J. Munck, Matisse-Derain: La vérité du fauvisme, Paris, 2005, pp. 18, 92, 200 and 323 (illustrated, p. 18, pl. 10).
Paris, Galerie Bernheim-Jeune et Cie., Henri Matisse, February 1910, p. 7, no. 32 (dated 1906).
Paris, Galerie Georges Petit, Henri Matisse, June-July 1931, p. 13, no. 8 (dated 1903).
New York, City of York Art Gallery, French Paintings from the Kessler Collection, 1948, no. 7.
London, Wildenstein & Co. Ltd., London, Kessler Collection, 1948, no. 18.
London, The Lefevre Gallery (Alex. Reid & Lefevre), Paintings by XX Century French Masters, March 1958, p. 12, no. 11 (illustrated; dated 1903).
New York, The Museum of Modern Art, Henri Matisse: 64 Paintings, July-September 1966, pp. 25 and 61, no. 9 (illustrated, p. 25).
New York, The Museum of Modern Art and Paris, Musée national d’art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Henri Matisse: 1904-1917, September-June 1993, p. 128, no. 45 (illustrated in color, p. 129).
Paris, Musee national d'art moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou; Copenhagen, Statens Museum for Kunst and New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Matisse: In Search of True Painting, March 2012-March 2013, p. 198, no. 8 (illustrated in color).
Georges Matisse has confirmed the authenticity of this work.

After the pre-sale exhibition, this lot will be transferred to storage in Delaware and will be available for shipment from Delaware. Please note that title to the lot will transfer to the buyer in accordance with the Conditions of Sale while the lot is in storage in Delaware. Contact Christie’s Client Service team at +1 212 636 2000 for further details.


Emily Kaplan
Emily Kaplan Senior Vice President, Senior Specialist, Co-Head of 20th Century Evening Sale


Painted in the summer of 1904, while Henri Matisse was in Saint-Tropez, Nature more au purro, I reflects a turning point in the artist’s burgeoning practice. The ostensibly simple composition—featuring an arrangement of food and vessels atop a table—belies the role it played within the artist’s radically developing idiom. Formally, the construction of Nature more au purro, I owes much to Paul Cezanne, and up until this point, Matisse had frequently sought guidance in his predecessor’s deftly structured compositions. By 1904, however, Cezanne’s hold over Matisse was starting to wane as the artist began to develop his own aesthetic. This summer would prove momentous for Matisse, witnessing his brief embrace of Neo-Impressionism, transforming his sense of color and setting him on the path to Fauvism. This seminal movement, of which Matisse was a pioneering figure, would prove crucial to the development of modern art in the early twentieth century, changing the way artists approached color, form, and ultimately, representation.
The previous winter, Matisse had met Paul Signac who, alongside Georges Seurat, had been a leading proponent of Pointillism. In 1904, Signac was serving as the vice president of the Société des Artistes Indépendants, with Matisse as his deputy, and over the course of installing the February exhibition, the two artists grew closer. Signac remained throughout his life an ardent supporter of the Indépendants and the ethos it championed. In that vein, he regularly invited artists—including Matisse—to join him in the South of France where he lived. Enchanted by the luminous Mediterranean light, Signac continued to extol the virtues of Pointillism, and he hoped to convince a new generation of artists to join what he called his “joyous polychrome battalions” (quoted in H. Spurling, The Unknown Matisse, A Life of Henri Matisse, London, 1998, vol. I, p. 282).
This had been a trying period for Matisse as he sought to establish himself within the Parisian art world, which appeared at times to be a seemingly Sisyphean undertaking. To this end, he had adopted a subdued palette in the hope of making his paintings more attractive to prospective collectors. Indeed, the colors were so somber that Alfred H. Barr Jr. later referred to the years between 1902 and 1903 as the artist’s “dark period” (Matisse: His Art and his Public, New York, 1951, p. 49). Matisse’s luck began to change at the dawn of 1904. The year saw his inclusion in an exhibition at Berthe Weil’s gallery, and in June, Matisse’s first solo presentation opened at Ambroise Vollard’s storied space on rue Lafitte in Paris. In the preface to the exhibition, the writer and critic Roger Marx wrote that “the artist’s discipline is such to justify anyone’s confidence and esteem,” noting that “the constant growth of [Matisse’s] talent was caused by endlessly renewed efforts which stimulated the artist to make the most ruthless demands upon himself” (quoted in ibid., p. 45). Though he was heading slowly towards financial security and professional triumph, Matisse believed he had subjugated himself for too long to the demands of potential clients. It was perhaps with this in mind that Matisse responded to Signac’s invitation to follow him to the South of France.
It was his approach to color, above all else, that Matisse would so fundamentally reconceptualize during his months in Saint-Tropez. Although reluctant to entirely adopt the Pointillist technique, he readily worked alongside Signac and Henri-Edmond Cross and found himself enthused by their aesthetic theories. Under the famed Mediterranean light, Matisse painted the harbor, the Place des Lices, and other local sites. “The singing colors,” wrote Hilary Spurling, “once again released by his return to the south made him place less emphasis on his subject, and more on the decorative surface of his canvas” (op. cit., 1998, p. 284). He started to incorporate ever brighter tonalities into his compositions, seen in the radiant highlights and background patterning of Nature more au purro, I. The painting shimmers with lilac, flecks of rose and red, and verdant green, the vibrant notes of color anticipating the Fauvist compositions that Matisse would create the following year. As Elizabeth Cross observed, “This was the turning point in Matisse’s art” (“Late Neo-Impressionism” in Radiance, The Neo-Impressionists, exh. cat., National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2012, p. 113).
Encouraged by these developments, Matisse continued to explore the implications of theatrical color across a variety of genres including the still life, which would remain a site for some of the artist’s most important visual innovations throughout his long career. For Matisse, the genre’s inherent stability—as well as its primary concern for color and form—paradoxically encouraged some of his most significant formal and conceptual developments. The bright tonalities used in Nature more au purro, I herald the artist’s evolving and liberated palette. In the present work reside the seeds for the visionary canvases that Matisse would go on to produce a few months later.

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