Henri Matisse

Reading Woman with Parasol


Not on display

Henri Matisse 1869–1954
Original title
Liseuse à l'ombrelle
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 508 × 616 mm
frame: 682 × 793 × 80 mm
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1938

Display caption

Matisse painted this work while renting a house near Nice in the South of France. The relaxed, relatively naturalistic style is typical of his work of the early 1920s. It was bought by the Contemporary Art Society in 1926 with the intention of presenting it to the Tate Gallery. Matisse wrote that the painting ‘will represent me as well as possible - moreover, I think that it will not frighten the acquisitions committee of the Modern Museum in London.' In fact, the Tate initially turned it down, but accepted it in 1938.

Gallery label, August 2007

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Catalogue entry

Henri Matisse 1869-1954

N04924 Liseuse à l'Ombrelle (Reading Woman with Parasol) 1921

Inscribed 'Henri-Matisse' b.r.
Oil on canvas, 20 x 24 1/4 (51 x 61.5)
Presented by the Contemporary Art Society 1938
Prov: CAS (purchased from the artist 1926)
Exh: Henri Matisse, Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen, September 1924 (69, repr.), as 'Læsende dame med en parasol. Nizza ... 1921'; Opening Exhibition of the Modern Foreign Gallery, Tate Gallery, June-October 1926 (works not numbered), as 'Lady at a Table'; The CAS: Second Loan Exhibition of Foreign Paintings, M. Knoedler, London, February 1928 (71), as 'Liseuse en plein air'; Silver Jubilee Exhibition of some of the Works acquired by the CAS, Tate Gallery, July-August 1935 (38)
Lit: Albert C. Barnes and Violette de Mazia, The Art of Henri-Matisse (New York-London 1933), No.108a, p.441, repr. p.229 and dated 1920; Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Matisse: his Art and his Public (New York 1951), p.557, dated 1921; Mario Luzi and Massimo Carrà, L'Opera di Matisse dalla Rivolta 'Fauve' all'Intimismo 1904-1928 (Milan 1971), No.322, p.100, repr. p.99 (dated 1920)
Repr: Roger Fry, Henri-Matisse (Paris-London 1930), pl.21 as 'The Green Parasol' 1923; Cahiers d'Art, 1931, p.229 as 'Liseuse, en plein air' 1920

When shown a photograph in 1950, Matisse said that he painted this in a small house which he rented near Nice at Pont du Loup. According to Mme Duthuit, the sitter was a professional model, Henriette D.

There are several letters from the artist to the late St John Hutchinson relating to the purchase of this picture, which was bought by the Contemporary Art Society specifically for presentation to the Tate. Matisse said it was among the paintings which he intended not to sell (they 'are my library and give me information about my work, my direction'), but that he was prepared to make an exception for a major museum (letter of 7 February 1926). After the purchase had been completed he added: 'The painting selected is the result of a prolonged effort and will represent me as well as possible - moreover I think that it won't frighten the acquisitions committee of the Modern Museum in London' (letter of 13 March 1926). In fact, however, it was turned down the first time it was offered in 1929 and was not accepted by the Trustees until 1938.

Matisse himself referred to this work as 'Reading Woman with Parasol (open air)', but it has also been known as 'Woman reading', 'The Green Parasol', 'Lady at a Table' and 'Woman reading in the Open Air'. Though dated 1920 in Cahiers d'Art and by Barnes and de Mazia, and 1923 by Roger Fry and Florent Fels, it seems probable that the date 1921 given in the catalogue of Matisse's 1924 Copenhagen exhibition is accurate.

Published in:
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.498, reproduced p.498


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