Henri Matisse, Lithograph Sleeping Blue Nude, 1952. Courtesy of Art Days.

Henri Matisse: Nudes

“When an artist or student draws a nude figure with painstaking care, the result is drawing, and not emotion,” Henri Matisse once said. More concerned with compositional harmony than anatomical accuracy, Matisse often portrayed nude figures with varying degrees of abstraction and symbolism. In the 1920s, Matisse frequently depicted his nude subjects in the odalisque pose, a classical art historical stance in which a woman is seen reclining on a couch and exposing her body to the viewer. For many of these portraits, the painter adorned his nude models with exotic accessories, finding inspiration in the harems he had visited in Tunisia and Morocco before World War I. Depicting the artist’s favorite model Henriette Darricarrère, the painting Odalisque Couchée Aux Magnolias (1923) broke the artist’s auction record when it sold for over $80 million in 2018. Towards the end of his career, Matisse simplified his nude forms even further. For example, his celebrated “Blue Nudes” series transformed the female body into bold, blue shapes, composed of just a few paper cut-outs.

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