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Woman in Blue

Henri Matisse, French, 1869 - 1954

Photographs of this painting in progress show that Henri Matisse started with a casual pose and a realistic rendering. He then expanded and rounded the skirt and sleeves of the woman’s blue garment and made her relaxed pose more upright and rigid, emphasizing relationships of line, shape, pattern, and color. The flat checkerboards of the black floor and red wall make a strong visual setting for the model’s stylized form. Lydia Delectorskaya—the artist’s secretary and studio manager—became Matisse’s primary model in the second half of the 1930s. At the artist’s request, she came up with the combination of ruffled blue silk bodice with lace edging and matching skirt, intended only for use in the studio. The drawing by her right shoulder, light blue against the red wall, is a related image Matisse had made of Delectorskaya a few months earlier.


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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