Drawings and Graphic Works

"I have always considered drawing not as an exercise of particular dexterity… but as a means deliberately simplified so as to give simplicity and spontaneity to the expression, which should speak without clumsiness, directly to the mind of the spectator."

"Drawing is like making an expressive gesture with the advantage of permanence."

"If I trust my drawing hand it is because in training it to serve me, I forced myself never to let it take precedence over my feelings."

Matisse considered his drawing to be a very intimate means of expression. The method of artistic execution — whether it was charcoal, pencil, crayon, etcher's burin, lithographic tusche or paper cut — varied according to the subject and personal circumstance. His favorite subjects were evocative or erotic — the female form, the nude figure or a beautiful head of a favorite model. Other themes relate to the real or imagined world of both Oceania and the Caribbean -- the lagoons, the coral and the faces of beautiful women from these far off lands. Still other subjects were inspired by classical mythology.

Matisse often made drawings to inform his paintings and sculptures, feeling that these drawings should be quick, gestural exercises that captured the form and emotion evoked in him by the subject. As the most direct expression of the artist's thoughts, drawing often helped Matisse to work out compositional and stylistic problems or new ideas. During the mid-1930s, he created distinctive series of pen-and-ink drawings on the subject of the artist and his model, while in the early 1940s he conceived his famous sequences of Thèmes et Variations, sensitively drawn spare works in elegant, unshaded line, describing simplified forms of female figures or still lifes. In the late 1940s and early '50s, his drawings become bolder, the contour line thicker, the forms even more simplified and devoid of detail. The latest large drawings of acrobats (1951–52), executed with a thick brush placed at the end of a long stick, are made up of contour only. They are contemporaneous with a cutout series of Blue Nudes, and the two mediums seem to represent two different approaches to form and space. The relationship between figure-ground becomes ambiguous and space complements the intended form. The form appears almost sculptural.

Matisse was also involved with printmaking for more than fifty years. From 1900 until his death in 1954 he completed more than eight hundred intaglios, lithographs, woodcuts, linoleum cuts, and monotypes. His attitude toward printmaking was a somewhat unconventional one in that for him it was a personal process, an extension of drawing, and a means of unwinding after long and intense periods of painting. As such, there were several distinct times during which Matisse was particularly active in the medium: 1906, 1914, and during the 1920s. In 1929 alone he made more than one hundred etchings and drypoints.

The intimate nature of Matisse's printmaking is visible in his working process. Unlike many artists who depended on close relationships with master printers in their workshops, Matisse spent more time on an etching press installed in his studio that allowed him to print when and as he liked. This intimacy is also evident in his choice of subjects, which were mostly portraits of friends, family, and fellow artists, as well as images of female figures and nudes, including a great number of odalisques made after a trip to North Africa.

Matisse's etchings and drypoints were executed on a small scale with linear fluidity, giving them a sense of immediacy and spontaneity, like pages in a sketchbook. Alternately, his lithographs were on a larger scale and made grander statements. These lithographs exploited the tonal possibilities of the medium that allowed Matisse to achieve effects of volume and depth.

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Self Portrait
ink on paper
1900

Magnolia
pen and ink on paper
20.9 x 25.7 cm.
Private Collection
c. 1900

Still Life
brush and ink on paper
19.5 x 23 cm.
Musée Matisse, Départmental, Le Cateau-Cambrésis
1900

Portrait of Cocoly Agelaso
brush and ink on paper
58.3 x 48.6 cm.
Thaw Collection, Pierpoint Morgan Library, New York
1916-1917

Nude with a Blue Cushion near a Fireplace
lithograph
63.3 x 47.8 cm.
Bibliothèque Nationale , Paris
1925

Odalisque with Striped Pants
lithograph
54.5 x 44 cm.
Bibliothèque Nationale , Paris
1925

The Persian
lithograph
44.8 x 29 cm.
Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore
1929

Repose on the Banquette
lithograph
44.5 x 55.5 cm.
Bibliothèque Nationale , Paris
1929

The Swan
etching
33 x 25 cm.
Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore
1931-1932

The Guignon
etching
33 x 50 cm.
Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore
1931-1932

...la torsem et  native nue...
etching
from Mallarme
1932

Fata with Hat of Light, Memory of Mallarme
dry point etching on Chinese paper
36.6 x 32 cm.
Private Collection
1933

Study of A Model
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg
1934

Face of a Woman
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg
1935

Study for "Pink Nude"
charcoal on paper
34 x 48 cm.
Private Collection
1935

Portrait of a Young Girl
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg
1935

Head of a Woman
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg
1935

The Couch
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg
1935

Woman with a Hood
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg
1939

The Asian
charcoal on paper
61 x 41cm.
Matisse Archives
1939

Still Life with Apples
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg
1940

Study of Trees
August 25, 1941

G1 of Themes et Variations
ink on paper
variations of Still Life with Magnoli
1941

Pot de Begonie
cut linoleum
20.1 x 23 cm.
Bibliothèque Nationale , Paris
1941-1942

Nude Seated wit Crossed Legs (II)
cut linoleum
1941-1942

The Afternoon
linocut
24.5 x 17.8 cm.
Bibliothèque Nationale , Paris
1941-1942

Bather with Leaves
charcoal on paper
52 x 40 cm.
Private Collection
1942

Profile of a Woman (Lydia Delecktorshaja)
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg
1942

Matisse's Hand Holding a Fruit
Hermitage, St. Petersberg
1944

Jug with Pumpkin
pencil on paper
20.3 x 26.6 cm.
Private Collection
1944

A Straw Hat
pen and ink
1944

Flowers
38.2 x 26.5 cm.
pen, ink and watercolor
Private Collection
1945

Self Portrait
lithograph
1945

Decorative Panel with Magnolia Motif
charcoal on paper
91.4 68.7 cm.
Private Collection
1945

Study of a Face
pencil and ink on paper
25.9 x 18 cm.
Private Collection
1946

Study for "Artine" by Rene Char
pencil and ink on paper
22 x 17 cm.
Private Collection
1946

Face (Claude)
charcoal on paper
40.5 x 30 cm.
Private Collection
1946

Still Life with Flowers and Fruit
pen and ink on paper
55 x 74 cm.
Private Collection
1947

Young Nude Woman
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg
1948

Face - Flower
pen, ink and gouache on paper
15 x 11.7 cm.
1948

Face - Mask
pen, ink and gouache on paper
14.9 x 10.5 cm.
1948

Face - Flower
pen, ink and gouache on paper
15.4 x 11.5 cm.
1948

Face
pen, ink and gouache on paper
15 x 11.7 cm.
1948

Head of a Woman
Hermitage, Saint Petersburg
1948

Composition with Standing
Nude and Black Fern

brush and ink
Musée National d'Arte Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris
1948

Self Portrait
lithograph
1949

Face (Claudie)
charcoal on paper
32.5 x 25 cm.
Private Collection
1949

Eschimo
charcoal on paper
Private Collection
1949

An Eschimo
lithograph
1949

Nude from the Back
brush and ink on paper
52 x 40 cm.
Private Collection
1950

White Mask on a Dark Background acquatint
Private Collection
1949-1950

Face in Profile
pen, ink and gouache on paper
20.8 x 13.6cm.
1951

Face - Mask
pen, ink and gouache on paper
21.6 x 13.6 cm.
1951

Face - Mask
pen, ink and gouache on paper
21.2 x 13.5 cm.
1951

Woman Covering her Face with her Hand
ink on paper
Private Collection
1951

Three Masks
aqcuatint
Private Collection
1951-52

Acrobat
brush and ink on paper
105 x 74.5 cm.
Private Collection
1952

Study for the Illustration Project "Cantico Dei Cantici"
pen, ink and watercolor
Private Collection
c. 1952