Henri Matisse

The Inattentive Reader


Not on display

Henri Matisse 1869–1954
Original title
La Liseuse distraite
Oil paint on canvas
Support: 730 × 924 mm
frame: 922 × 1110 × 90 mm
Bequeathed by Montague Shearman through the Contemporary Art Society 1940

Display caption

Matisse painted this work during an extended stay in a hotel in Nice in the south of France. Although the woman was probably a professional model, Matisse creates a sense of casual intimacy, and uses details in this anonymous setting to touch on serious themes. The distracted reader assumes the head-in-hand pose traditionally associated with melancholy, while the flowers and mirror are reminders of the transience of life.

Gallery label, March 2003

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Catalogue entry

Henri Matisse 1869-1954

N05141 La Liseuse distraite (The Inattentive Reader) 1919

Inscribed 'Henri-Matisse' b.l.
Oil on canvas, 28 3/4 x 36 3/8 (73 x 92.5)
Bequeathed by Montague Shearman through the CAS 1940
Prov: With Bernheim-Jeune, Paris (purchased from the artist 2 March 1919); Montague Shearman, London, 12 June 1919
Exh: Oeuvres Récentes de Henri-Matisse, Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, May 1919 (25), as 'La Liseuse distraite' 1919; Pictures by Henri-Matisse and Sculptures by Maillol, Leicester Galleries, London, November-December 1919 (33); The CAS: Loan Exhibition of Modern Foreign Painting, Colnaghi's Galleries, London, June-July 1924 (45); The Montague Shearman Collection, Redfern Gallery, London, April-May 1940 (11, repr. in colour); The Tate Gallery's Wartime Acquisitions, National Gallery, London, April-May 1942 (76); Acquisitions of the CAS, Tate Gallery, September-October 1946 (41)
Lit: Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Matisse: his Art and his Public (New York 1951), pp.196-7, 205-6; Exhibition: The Memoirs of Oliver Brown (London 1968), pp.63-4
Repr: Jean Cassou, Matisse (London 1948), pl.1 in colour; Arthur R. Howell, The Meaning and Purpose of Art (London 1957), frontispiece in colour

Painted early in 1919 in the Hôtel de la Méditerranée at Nice; the same room and the same items of furniture appear in various other pictures of this period. Matisse regularly passed the winter months at Nice from December 1916 onwards, and during the winter of 1918-19 and the two succeeding years occupied rooms in the Hôtel de la Méditerranée on the Promenade des Anglais. Mme Duthuit said that the sitter for this picture was a professional model.

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, pp.497-8, reproduced p.497

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