Audio transcript

HENRI MATISSE 'Portrait of Greta Moll'

Narrator: A strong personality shines through this portrait by Henri Matisse. Its subject is Greta Moll, one of his students and an early collector of his work. Matisse had offered to paint Greta after being shown another portrait of her which he thought had failed to capture her youthfulness. Although Matisse was sure that he could do better, the task was more difficult than he expected after ten sittings with Greta, he was still unhappy with the portrait. Then, in her absence, he reworked it substantially, taking the pose and thickened arms from a painting by Veronese and altering the pattern on her clothing. Greta was horrified by the result, particularly the bushy eyebrows and stocky arms. Many years later, Matisse recalled: 'I saw them completely dumbfounded in front of the result of my work, which seemed to them a disaster. They missed the blond curls and the varied colours. This portrait was later very much admired, even by them, and I said to myself once more that Bonnard was right to declare that a portrait always ends up being a likeness.'