Henri Matisse

Reclining Nude II


Henri Matisse 1869–1954
Original title
Nu couché, 2me etat
Object: 283 × 495 × 149 mm
Purchased 1953

Display caption

This small sculpture is part of a series in which the female nude is treated with increasing abstraction. The reclining figure takes up the languid pose of the odalisque, a traditional view of the female nude, which Matisse regularly used in his paintings and drawings. A balance is struck between the sensual, relaxed curves and the robust form of the supporting arm and shoulder.

Gallery label, November 2011

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Catalogue entry

N06146 Nu couché, 2me Etat (Reclining Nude, II) 1927

Inscribed 'NG' and founder's stamp 'CIRE | G.VALSUANI | PERDUE' on back of left elbow

Bronze, 11 1/8 x 19 ½ x 5 7/8 (28.3 x 49.5 x 15) on marble base; height including base 12 ½ (32)

Purchased from Gérald Cramer (Knapping Fund) 1953

Prov: With Gérald Cramer, Geneva (purchased from the artist 1952)

Lit: Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Matisse: his Art and his Public (New York 1951), pp.217-8, 545, repr. p.457 under the incorrect title 'Reclining Nude, III'; Albert E. Elsen, The Sculpture of Henri Matisse (New York 1972), pp.155-9, repr. p.156

This pose first appeared in Matisse’s work in reverse (body lying to the right instead of to the left) in paintings such as 'The Joy of Life' 1905-6 and 'The Blue Nude' 1907, and in the sculptures 'Reclining Figure with Chemise' 1906 and 'Reclining Nude, I' 1907.

About twenty years later, Matisse took up the pose again this way round in this sculpture and in another related piece 18.5cm high in which the body is set lower, the breasts and hips flattened out and the arms diminished. When exhibited at the Maison de la Pensée Française in 1950, they were entitled respectively 'Reclining Nude, III' and 'Reclining Nude, II'. The following year, however, in reply to a questionnaire from Alfred H. Barr, Jr., the artist stated definitely that the present work was the earlier and should be listed as 'II'. It is in fact much closer in design to 'Reclining Nude, I'; also this sequence shows a progressive abstraction in keeping with that of the series of reliefs 'The Back'. Elsen dates the present work 1927 and the later version 1929. A photograph of Matisse at work on 'Reclining Nude, III' in his studio at Nice is reproduced in the exhibition catalogue Henri Matisse, Galerien Thannhauser, Berlin-Lucerne, 1930, and is stated to have been taken in 1929.

This work is being cast in an edition of ten bronzes.

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.499, reproduced p.499

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