Femme au chapeau

by Henri Matisse

DIMENSIONS: (unframed) 15 x 11 ins

SIGNATURE: Signed with the initials ‘HM’ lower right

MEDIUM: Pen and Indian ink on paper

Catalogue No: 5402 Categories: ,


Femme au Chapeau is an expressive and sensitive line drawing by the world-renowned artist Henri Matisse. As the most direct expression of the artist’s thoughts, drawing often helped Matisse to work out compositional and stylistic problems or new ideas…in the early 1940s he conceived his famous sequence of ‘Thèmes et Variations,’ a sequence of 19 themes which he lettered from ‘A’-‘P’ – sensitively drawn spare works, of which Femme au Chapeau is one. In April of 1942, Matisse wrote his daughter, Marguerite Duthuit, describing this series; “For a year I have made a very considerable effort, one of the most important of my life. I have perfected my drawing and made surprising progress, like ease and sensibility liberally expressed, with a great variety of sensation and a minimum of means. It’s like a flowering.



The Estate of the Artist;

Thence by descent;

Private Collection, United Kingdom


This work is accompanied by a certificate of authenticity from Wanda de Guébriant.

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Matisse pioneered several early 20th Century art movements, and is credited, along with Picasso, as having changed art forever.

Born in northern France, Matisse went to Paris in 1887 to study law, and worked as a Court Administrator for a time. He discovered painting in 1889, after his mother brought him some art supplies for his recovery from appendicitis. He discovered “a kind of paradise” whilst painting, as he later described it. Abandoning the law, he returned to Paris to study art at the Académie Julian and became a student of the Barbizon painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau. Initially he painted still life and landscapes, and was influenced by the works of earlier masters such as Nicolas Poussin, and Antoine Watteau, as well as by modern artists, like Édouard Manet, and by Japanese art.

In 1896 and 1897, Matisse visited the Australian artist John Peter Russell on Belle Île off the coast of Brittany. Russell introduced him to Impressionism and to the work of Van Gogh, who was completely unknown at the time. Matisse’s style changed completely. He later said that “Russell explained colour theory to me.” In 1896 Matisse exhibited five paintings in the salon of the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, two of which were purchased by the state – this was a pivotal moment for his success.

Throughout his life, Matisse immersed himself in the work of other painters, and went into debt buying work from artists he admired. In his own home he had a plaster bust by Rodin, a painting by Gauguin, a drawing by van Gogh, and Cézanne’s Three Bathers.

Many of Matisse’s paintings from 1898 to 1901 make use of a Divisionist technique he adopted from Paul Signac, and at the turn of the century he dedicated time to sculpting in clay.

Matisse then began to explore brighter colours and looser brushstrokes in a move towards abstraction. In this way, along with André Durain, Matisse started the Fauve movement. The Fauve artists first exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1905, using wild, often dissonant colours, without regard for their subject’s natural appearance. Matisse showed Open Window and Woman with the Hat at the Salon. Critic Louis Vauxcelles described the work with the phrase “Donatello parmi les fauves!” (Donatello among the wild beasts), referring to a Renaissance sculpture that shared the room with them. The group then adopted this insult as their name. Despite Matisse’s success, his revolutionary work was never accepted by his family, and many members of the traditional art establishment regarded him with disdain.

Around April 1906 he met Pablo Picasso, who became his lifelong friend and rival.

Gertrude Stein, the well-known art collector, friend, and hostess of Matisse’s social circle, commented “More and more frequently, people began visiting to see the Matisse paintings… Matisse brought people, everybody brought somebody, and they came at any time and it began to be a nuisance, and it was in this way that Saturday evenings began.”

His friends organised and financed the Académie Matisse in Paris, a private school in which Matisse instructed young artists. It operated from 1907 until 1911. Matisse spent seven months in Morocco from 1912 to 1913, producing about 24 paintings and numerous drawings. His frequent orientalist topics of later paintings, such as odalisques, can be traced to this period.

In 1917 Matisse relocated to Cimiez on the French Riviera, a suburb of the city of Nice. The following decade sees a relaxation and a softening of his approach. This “return to order” is characteristic of much art of the post-World War I period.

After 1930 a new vigour and bolder simplification appeared in his work. American art collector Albert C. Barnes convinced him to produce a large mural for the Barnes Foundation, The Dance II,(1932). This move toward simplification was a foreshadowing of the cut-out technique also evident in his painting Large Reclining Nude (1935).

Bedridden after an operation for stomach cancer, Matisse began to develop the famous cut-out technique as its own art form. In 1948, Matisse began to prepare designs for the Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence, which allowed him to expand this technique within a truly decorative context. The experience of designing the chapel windows, chasubles, and tabernacle door, all planned using the cut-out method, had the effect of consolidating the medium as his focus. Finishing his last painting in 1951, Matisse utilized the paper cut-out as his sole medium for expression up until his death.

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