Henri Matisse 1869-1954
N04718 Académie bleue (Nude Study in Blue) c.1899-1900
Oil on canvas, 28 3/4 x 21 3/8 (73 x 54)
Inscribed 'Henri-Matisse' b.l.
Bequeathed by C. Frank Stoop 1933
Prov: 'La Peau de l'Ours', Paris; 'Peau de l'Ours' sale, Drouot, Paris, 2 March 1914, lot 31; bt. Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, 900 frs.; Kurt Vollmoeller, Basle, 17 March 1914; C. Frank Stoop, London, c.1930
Exh: Henri-Matisse, Galeries Georges Petit, Paris, June-July 1931 (5) as 'Académie Bleue' 1899, lent by Frank Stoop; Impressionists and After, Birmingham City Art Gallery, October-November 1947 (no catalogue); Matisse 1869-1954, Hayward Gallery, London, July-September 1968 (17, repr.)
Lit: Albert C. Barnes and Violette de Mazia, The Art of Henri-Matisse (New York-London 1933), No.11, p.432, repr. p.230; Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Matisse: his Art and his Public (New York 1951), pp.48, 531, 557; Gaston Diehl, Henri Matisse (Paris 1954), pp.24, 159
Repr: Cahiers d'Art, 1931, p.236; Alan Bowness, Matisse and the Nude (London 1968), pl.1 in colour
This picture has usually (and perhaps correctly) been dated 1899, but when Matisse was shown a photograph by Frank McEwen in 1950, he said that it was painted in 1900 in the Académie Carrière. It has a label on the back stamped 'La Peau de l'Ours' and inscribed '153. Henri-Matisse | 1910 | Etude de femme (de l'atelier Carrière)', and the canvas bears the stamp of a paint dealer in the Rue de Rennes, where the Académie Carrière was situated. Another painter at work at his easel can be seen in the background.
The Académie Carrière was an atelier run by an Italian where Carrière came to correct every week; it had the advantage that the more daring pupils were allowed to work without interference. Matisse worked there from 1899 until it closed some months later (in 1900?) and executed a number of studies of the nude model which like this are very bold in colour. He seems to have used this picture as a study for his first completed figure sculpture, 'Madeleine I' of 1901, just as he used several similar pictures of the male model Bevilaqua as studies for his sculpture 'The Serf' of the same period (see Barr, op.cit., p.48). However the sculpture has the arms folded across the breasts, instead of being extended downwards.
This painting originally belonged to La Peau de l'Ours, an association of eight (later expanded to eleven) young collectors formed in 1904 for the joint purchase of works by outstanding young painters. The sale of their collection in March 1914 was one of the principal artistic events of the year. This picture was bought then or shortly afterwards on Kurt Vollmoeller's behalf by his brother-in-law the well-known German painter Hans Purrmann, who was one of Matisse's most devoted supporters from 1905 onwards, organised his painting school and became its 'student manager', arranged his first one-man show in Berlin and sold his pictures to German collectors.
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, p.491, reproduced p.491