Note: In the 1920’s, as a reaction to the trauma of the period of the First War, Matisse abandoned his search for avant-garde development and began to concentrate on naturalistic form. It was in this period that he started to draw and paint his ‘odalisque’ compositions – studies of reclining women in exotic settings. In the paintings the women are adorned with rich oriental-style costumes, but in the drawings, and in the chalk-drawn line lithographs of the same period, he used similar poses but with the figures nude or with only diaphanous adornment. In these studies of reclining nudes he was exploring the way that the arrangements of the limbs, combined with the flow of the line, could create an atmosphere of exoticism and also at the same time sculpturally define the space around them. He has written of how he did not see these studies as specific, that is to say not as portrait studies of a particular model, but rather as a generalised and ‘abstract’ composition of form and as an evocation of an emotional atmosphere. In ‘Nu Assis, Bras Gauche sur la Tête’ there is exactly this sense of languid emotion, but at the same time of powerful spatial structure created through the counterpoint of the legs and the arms and the twist in the body. The handling of the line and the definition of form has all that genius of combined simplicity and complexity which is the essence of Matisse’s inspiration as a draughtsman. Our work also shows Islamic designs, probably a background carpet was used. This is in concordance with the Odalisque theme.
Provenance: The stock of Henri M Petiet, Paris. The dealers stamp H.M.P in an oval, verso. Petiet was one of the most famous art dealers of Paris in the post war era. He bought the stock of Vollard on that dealers untimely death and proceeded to become one of the leading print dealers in Paris. The fact that our piece emanates from this source gives authenticity and prominence to it. Petiet’s vast stock has been sold in dozens of auctions over the last 15 years.