PLATE 25

Painted in 1943

TABAC ROYAL

25 X 32"

The garish spotting of the colors, themselves tending towards acidity, and the sullied purity of the contrasts might be interpreted as the artist's own comment on this set-piece of elegance painted in the German-occupied France of 1943. Underneath the shininess of the oil, the blue and red of the wall turn somber, and the faded look of the tans makes the brighter colors strident. The feeling in this picture is uneasy, unreconciled with itself -- as so often in these years when Matisse continued to insist on treating the human model as but one more in a collection of inert objects. Yet beyond the color an exactly sensed and beautifully tightened piece of drawing and design is revealed. The parallel sets of planes slanting from right to left all the way across the canvas create depth, and at the same time keep some order among the many small spots of color. Nevertheless, this does not altogether succeed in suppressing a certain jumpiness or clutter.

 

PLATE 26

Painted 1929-31

GIRL IN A YELLOW DRESS

Baltimore Museum of Art (Cone Collection)

39 3/8 x 32"

This is one of the few definitely successful pictures of a period of transition (1926 to 1935) during which Matisse wavered between a flat and a modeled manner more uncertainly than ever before. The figure reminds one somewhat of his 1918-20 style, and is a superlative example of brush-drawing: that is, line and shading are rendered, and color filled in, with no attempt to cover up or fuse the summary touches of a flat-cut brush.

The dress is sectioned into planes that keep parallel with the surface even where they seem to slant away; and if the figure advances from the window recess it is more by reason of color oppositions and its heavy if intermittent outline than by modeling or shading. The color relies greatly on the play of complementaries, with ocher mediating between yellow and blue, and red and green, and at the same time complementing the intenser blue of the sea outside the window.

The figure's dumpy, bottle-like symmetry and mute face counteract what tendency it has towards fashion -magazine charm.