Lady with a Guitar, 1939
Signed and dated bottom left: Henri Matisse, 29/3/39
Pen on paper
56 x 38 cm / 22.1 x 15 in
Acquired directly from the artist’s atelier in 1950 and thence by descent
Private Collection, Europe
“Poesie 42” Dec 1941-Jan 1942, illus. pg 29
“Menton, Festival de Musique”, 3-15 August 1956, Illus. front cover
Galleria Civica D’Arte Moderna, “Blaue Reiter”, 5 March 1971, Turin
This evocative drawing from 1939 is a perfect illustration of Matisse’s remarkable economy
of means characteristic of his mature works on paper. Avoiding shading or colour, Matisse
entrusted his vision to pure line. While many artists would first execute quick, simple
sketches and then rework the subject into more elaborated, modelled studies, Matisse has
inverted the process. For him, the simple line drawings were the ultimate, meaningful
distillation of his careful study of light, mass and colour.
Matisse thought of his line drawings as being more than a purely graphic exercise. In the
variations of the line he believed the 'light and value differences' were able to evoke colours
on the white page (H. Matisse, 'Notes of a Painter on his Drawing', pp. 129-132, in J. Flam,
ed., Matisse on Art, London 1995, p. 130). Among his drawings, he regarded those achieved
with fine, simple lines as his major achievements. In 1939, the same year he executed this
elegant example, he concluded: 'My line drawing is the purest and most direct translation of
my emotion'; he specified: 'The simplification of the medium allows for that' (ibid.).
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