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Woman in Blue

Henri Matisse, French, 1869 - 1954
Matisse kept a collection of textiles and costumes, drawing inspiration from their floral patterns and arabesques in organizing his compositions. In early 1936 he began a series of paintings depicting female models wearing costumes with dramatic patterns and vivid colors, and surrounded by bouquets, mirrors, and works of art. The dress of the Woman in Blue, fashioned by Lydia Delectorskaya, the painter’s assistant and principal model, at his request, has a ruffled bodice over blue taffeta, leg-of-mutton sleeves, and a matching skirt. Photographs taken over the painting’s three-month gestation show how Matisse began with a relatively naturalistic rendering possessing detail and a sense of depth, and gradually progressed to bold simplification and amplification of form. The painting’s grandeur resides in its decorative harmony: the billowing curves of the dress and sofa, the geometric patterning of the wall and floor, and the bold coloration in blue, red, and yellow. ...

Object Details
Acquired from the artist by Paul Rosenberg, Paris, 1937; with Rosenberg & Helft, London, 1937; sold to Henry P. McIlhenny, Philadelphia, July 1937; gift to his sister, Bernice (Bonnie) M. McIlhenny Wintersteen (Mrs. John Wintersteen), (1903-1986) Villanova, PA, July 1937 [1]; gift to PMA, 1956.1. When asked by McIlhenny to recommend one of Matisse's figure paintings to purchase, the artist suggested his "Woman in Blue". See Rishel, Henry P. McIlhenny Collection, 1987, p. 68, and also correspondence from Paul Rosenberg, 1937 to 1938, in Henry McIlhenny Archives, object files (copies in curatorial file). Rosenberg was Matisse's dealer in this period.

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