Catalogue entry

Henri Matisse 1869-1954

T03889 Studio Interior c.1903-4

Oil on canvas 550 x 460 (21 5/8 x 18 1/4)
Inscribed ‘H Matisse' b.r.
Bequeathed by Lord Amulree and acquired 1984
Prov: ...; Eugène Blot, Paris, by whom placed for auction at Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 2 June 1933, (76, repr. pl.XIX, as ‘L'Atelier du peintre'); ... Dr Albert Charpentier, Paris, sold Galerie Charpentier, Paris, 30 March 1954 (23, repr. pl.XI, as ‘Intérieur de l'atelier') bt O'Hana Gallery by whom sold to Lord Amulree (died 1983)
Exh: ? Oeuvres du Peintre Henri Matisse, Galerie Vollard, Paris, June 1904 (2, as ‘Intérieur d'Atelier'); ? 2e Exposition, Société du Salon d'Automne, Grand Palais, Paris, Oct.-Nov. 1904 (614, as ‘Intérieur d'atelier'); Les Maîtres de l'Art Indépendant 1895-1937, Petit Palais, Paris, June-Oct. 1937 (no number, p.36, as ‘Coin d'Atelier', 1910); French Masters of the XIX and XX Centuries, O'Hana Gallery, June-July 1954 (13, repr.); Matisse 1869-1954, Hayward Gallery, July-Sept. 1968 (12, as ‘Corner of a Studio', c.1900)
Lit: Christian Zervos, ‘Notes sur la formation et le développement de l'oeuvre de Henri Matisse', Cahiers d'Art, vol.6, no.5-6, 1931, p.34, as ‘Vue de l'atelier' 1899, repr. as ‘Coin de l'atelier'; Jack Flam, Matisse: The Man and his Art, 1869-1918, 1986, p.103, p.107 pl.90, as ‘Corner of the Studio' c.1902; Tate Gallery Report 1984-6, 1986, pp.67-8, repr. in col. Also repr: Tableaux modernes. Collection Eugène Blot, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 2 June 1933, pl.XIX, as ‘L'Atelier du peintre'; Les Chroniques du Jour, April 1931, p.19, as ‘Coin d'Atelier', 1899; Jean Cassou, Paintings and Drawings of Matisse, London 1939, col. pl. 2, dated 1899; Alfred Barr Jr., Matisse: His Art and his Public, New York 1951, p.306, as ‘Corner of the Studio (Coin d'Atelier)', c.1900; Collection du Docteur Albert Charpentier. Tableaux Modernes, Galerie Charpentier, Paris, 30 March 1954 pl.XI, as ‘Intérieur de l'atelier'

This painting shows a corner of the artist'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. In particular, the use of light flooding into a room from a high window, introducing accents of pure colour amidst otherwise sombre and close-valued colours, is found also in ‘Studio Under the Eaves', c.1902-3 (Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, repr. Flam 1986, p.108 in col.). Jack Flam relates the architectural forms in T03889 to Matisse's preoccupation in these years with the painting of Chardin and Cézanne. Noting the presence of the plaster casts on top of the cupboard, the sculpture stand which supports the still-life, the easel and the large canvas with stretcher bars prominent, Flam also sees in this work a comment on the process of the making of art (Flam 1986, p.103). Matisse diligently 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.

X-rays of the painting suggest that whilst there was no preliminary drawing there was much reworking of the image as it was painted. In particular, the three-legged sculpture table in the foreground appears to have been much bigger in an early state of the work.

‘Studio Interior' has traditionally been dated c.1899-1900. In favour of this dating is the testimony of Christian Zervos, editor of the Cahiers d'Art. In an article in that magazine in 1931 he identified the work as having been painted in 1899 and claimed that it was Matisse's most characteristic work of that year. Noting that it was in 1899 that the artist acquired a painting by Cézanne (‘Three Bathers', c.1879-82, Ville de Paris, Musée du Petit Palais, repr. Flam 1986, p.72) Zervos claimed that Matisse tried in this work to emulate Cézanne by painting his perceptions and sensations of form and colour rather than by reproducing in a literal fashion the interior of the studio. Zervos also drew attention to the fact that the picture showed Matisse's love of flowers and interest in sculpture, commenting that the casts on top of the cupboard were Matisse's own. Zervos undoubtedly based his article on information given to him by Matisse, and it might be assumed that Matisse either suggested or concurred with the dating of ‘Studio Interior' as 1899. However, this was approximately thirty years after the event and Matisse's memory may not have been reliable in this respect.

In fact, the presence of the sculpture casts in this painting makes the date 1899 improbable. Matisse began to attend sculpture classes at the Ecole municipale de la Ville de Paris c.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 (repr. The Sculpture of Henri Matisse, exh. cat., Arts Council, 1984, no. 3, repr.[p.53] pl.3).

At the suggestion of Wanda de Guébriant, Jack Flam has stated that the casts either side of this were of Matisse's ‘Jaguar Devouring a Hare' and ‘The Serf' (repr. Flam 1986, p.103, p.76 fig.57 and p.86 fig.64). However, the depiction of the casts in the painting is not detailed enough to support firm identifications. A photograph which has been dated on internal evidence c.1904 shows Matisse in his studio standing next to a clay version of ‘The Serf' (repr. Henri Matisse Sculptor/Painter. A Formal Analysis of Selected Works, exh. cat., Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, 1984, p.41). As this sculpture is made of clay rather than plaster, and was subsequently much reworked before being cast, it seems improbable that the plaster cast shown on top of the cupboard in this painting is that of ‘The Serf'. Although it has been traditionally thought that this sculpture was cast into bronze c.1903, this photograph shows it was still unfinished c.1904 and, indeed, there is no evidence that a plaster cast of it was made before 1906 (Michael Mezzatesta, ‘Introduction' in Kimbell Art Museum 1984, pp.40-1).

Interestingly, this photograph 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 on which rests the plaster cast of ‘Bust of a Woman'. There also can be glimpsed in the background a large canvas, seen from the side of the stretcher, of the size of the canvas shown on the right of the painting. The identity of this canvas remains a mystery as there is no knowk work by Matisse of such large size of the 1890s or early 1900s. In a letter to the compiler dated 12 May 1988 Wanda de Guébriant writes that the canvas might have been either an uncompleted and destroyed work or a painting by a friend of Matisse.

The latest possible date of execution of this painting is the spring of 1904. A postcard of the work, postmarked November 1904, has recently been found in the Matisse archives. On the back of the card 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. Wanda de Guébriant has found a bill of purchase recording 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 evidence suggests that T03889 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. Wanda de Guébriant believes that these facts indicate that ‘Studio Interior' was also a recent work and suggests on stylistic grounds that the painting should be dated to the winter of 1903-4 (letter to Ronald Alley dated 6 February 1985).

Published in:
The Tate Gallery 1984-86: Illustrated Catalogue of Acquisitions Including Supplement to Catalogue of Acquisitions 1982-84, Tate Gallery, London 1988, pp.206-8