Large reclining nude by henri matisse
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Large Reclining Nude by Henri Matisse . A photographic record of his development of the painting.

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Large Reclining Nude by Henri Matisse

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Large Reclining NudebyHenri Matisse

A photographic record of his development of the painting

Henri Matisse was one of the most prolific and influential artists of the 20th century. In 1935, Matisse took the unusual step of documenting the creation of his painting, Large Reclining Nude, informally known as Pink Nude, from start to finish through photographs. This process captured successive stages of the image as it evolved over a five-month period. It was a complex piece, which moved from a more illusionistic representation of a nude figure to a one featuring flat shapes and broad geometric patterns. The photographs also show how Matisse sometimes pinned paper to the canvas to make temporary, easily changed modifications. 

Matisse sent this series of 22 photos of Large Reclining Nude to his long-time patron Etta Cone in Baltimore. Etta and her sister, Dr. Claribel Cone, had supported Matisse since the beginning of his career thirty years earlier and purchased many of his works. Matisse wrote to Etta on September 19, 1935: “I hope that these different works give you a little amusement - and my goal will be realized.” Thrilled to witness the creative process of her favorite artist, Etta added the finished painting to her collection. 

  • Visit the Jewish Museum site for a breakdown of the sequence looking specifically at changes to the figure, the room, the patterns, etc. with an audio discussion of Matisse and his process.

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