If I were to jump into one of the many phases of Henri Matisse’s long career it probably shouldn’t be at his Nice years (1917- 1930.) In the waning days of the Great War, he moved his studio from Paris to “simpler venues which won’t stifle the spirit.” 

His followers saw the move as an unforgivable betrayal. It was useless for him to protest that odalisque paintings were to be a series of chromatic experiments. Matisse had built his reputation as a stylistic innovator but now would spend almost 12 years painting conventionally-colored still lifes and interior views; and sexy Odalisques lounging on divans in various exotic settings. 

Odalisque with a Tambourine, Henri Matisse 1926

Odalisque with a Tambourine, Henri Matisse 1926

The exception I see to the rule is Odalisque with a Tambourine. She is sitting in a vertical position as opposed to horizontal. I love the predominance of purple in contrast to the deep amber floor, from the deep violet sky through the shuttered window, down to the lavender shadow of her thigh and buttocks. 

Critics viewed Matisse at this stage as an essentially frivolous and decorative lightweight (commercial artist) which would set the tone of response to his work in the following decades. I think he may have to moved to Nice for reasons beyond “a simpler venue” but I won’t elaborate here (see below.)  


FURTHER READING: Matisse and his ModelsSmithsonian Magazine October 2005