Artsy Insight: Matisse’s Blue Nude

“Oh do tell the American people that I am a normal man; that I am a devoted husband and father, that I have three fine children, that I go to the theater!”

Henri Matisse pleaded these words after his Blue Nude (Souvenir de Biskra) was quite literally burned at the stake—singed in an effigy following the 1913 Armory Show. Modeled after a sculpture he was constructing that had shattered to pieces, Matisse’s controversial nude reflected his previous three-dimensional attempt and challenged the idealized figures of many contemporaries. In addition to the outrage his painting caused in the U.S., the Blue Nude marked the beginning of the famous feud between Matisse and Picasso. “If he wants to make a woman, let him make a woman,” Picasso said of the work. “If he wants to make a design, let me him make a design. This is between the two.”

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