Henri Matisse - The Italian Woman 1916

Sleeping Nude on a Red Background 1916 Studio, Quay of Saint-Michel 1916 The Gourds 1916 The Italian Woman 1916 The Moroccans 1916 The Piano Lesson 1916 The Window 1916
The Italian Woman 1916

The Italian Woman 1916
116x89cm oil/canvas
Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, USA

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From the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, USA:
Henri Matisse often painted the same subject in versions that range from relatively realistic to more abstract or schematic. At times the transition from realism to abstraction could be enacted in a single canvas, as is the case with The Italian Woman, the first of many portraits Matisse painted of a professional Italian model named Laurette. The purposefully visible pentimenti and labored convergence of lines bear witness to his perpetual struggle “to reach that state of condensation of sensations which constitutes a picture.” Matisse was not interested in capturing momentary impressions; he strove to create an enduring conception.
From the earlier state of the portrait, which depicts a heavier woman, Matisse pared down Laurette’s image, in the process making her less corporeal and more ethereal. Using the conventions of religious painting—a frontal pose, introspective countenance, and flat back-ground devoid of any indication of location—he created an icon of Woman. The emphatic eyes and brow, elongated nose, and pursed lips of her schematic face resemble an African mask, implying that Matisse, like so many Modern artists, equated the idea of Woman with the foreign, exotic, and “primitive”; he continued in this vein, posing the same model with a turban and a mantilla.
Jennifer Blessing