Henri Matisse
Studio Interior c.1903–4

Artwork details

Henri Matisse 1869–1954
Studio Interior
Intérieur d'atelier
Date c.1903–4
Medium Oil paint on canvas
Dimensions Support: 550 x 460 mm
frame: 730 x 647 x 76 mm
Acquisition Bequeathed by Lord Amulree 1984


This painting shows a corner of Matisse's apartment at 19 Quai St. Michel, Paris, where he lived from 1899 to 1907. The subjects of domestic interiors and still-lifes (in this painting a carefully arranged still-life of a vase of flowers, jugs, a glass containing a long spoon and a lemon on the small stand in the foreground) were typical of Matisse's works of around the turn of the century. Matisse attended life drawing and sculpture classes from 1899 to 1904 and much of his work in this period focuses on subject matter arising from his studio practice.

Studio Interior has traditionally been dated c.1899-1900. Christian Zervos, editor of Cahiers d'Art, identified the work in 1931 as having been painted in 1899 and claimed that it was Matisse's most characteristic work of that year. Zervos drew comparisons between this work and the painting of Cézanne, whose Three Bathers, c.1879-82 (Ville de Paris, Musée du Petit Palais), Matisse acquired in 1899. Although Zervos most likely based his article on information given to him by Matisse, the artist's memory may not have been reliable some thirty years after the event. The presence of the sculpture casts, which were Matisse's own, in this painting makes the date 1899 improbable. Matisse began to attend sculpture classes at the École municipale de la Ville de Paris about 1899-1900 and he usually worked on his pieces for a length of time, in some cases over a period of years, before bringing them home. The cast which can be identified with the most confidence is the second on the left, which appears to be that for Bust of a Woman, cast in bronze in 1900.

A photograph (reproduced in Henri Matisse Sculptor/Painter: A Formal Analysis of Selected Works, exhibition catalogue, Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, 1984, p.41) taken c.1904 of Matisse in his studio shows many of the objects recorded in the painting. The clay sculpture stands on a triangular sculpture stand of the sort depicted in the painting's foreground. Behind is another slightly larger stand upon which rests the plaster cast of Bust of a Woman. Glimpsed in the background is a large canvas, seen from the side of the stretcher, of the size of the canvas shown on the right of the painting.

The latest possible date of execution of this painting is the spring of 1904. On a postcard of the work, postmarked November 1904 (Matisse archives) Matisse wrote that the painting was to have been purchased by the French government but, as it had already been sold, another was purchased instead. A bill of purchase records the sale of a painting entitled Still Life, exhibited as no. 620 in the Salon d'Automne of 1904, to the Ministère de l'Instruction publique et des Beaux-Arts. This suggests that Studio Interior was the work listed as Intérieur d'atelier in the catalogue of the Salon d'Automne and was probably, therefore, the work of the same title exhibited at the Galerie Vollard in June of that year. In the Salon d'Automne of the previous year Matisse exhibited only recent works of 1902-3, and in the Salon of 1904 the other works shown were all of 1902-4. This seems to indicate that Studio Interior was also a recent work that may be dated stylistically to the winter of 1903-4.

Further reading:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions, London 1988, pp.206-8, reproduced
Jack Flam, Matisse: The Man and his Art, 1869-1918, 1986, p.103, reproduced p.107 pl.90, as Corner of the Studio c.1902

Terry Riggs
February 1998

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