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Nude on a Sofa, 1923

Henri Matisse
French, 1869-1954
Oil on canvas
20 x 24 in. (50.8 x 61.0 cm)
Norton Simon Art Foundation
© 2017 Succession H. Matisse, / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York Reproduction, including downloading of ARS works is prohibited by copyright laws and international conventions without the express written permission of Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

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Using a dry brush charged with black paint almost as though it were a stick of charcoal, Matisse laid in the contours of this reclining nude with a brisk hand. The composition holds red (the chair, the flowers), white (the sheet, the vase) and black (the body’s contours and the boldly patterned backdrop) in perfect equilibrium. By the 1920s, Matisse’s work had taken a classical turn, increasingly focused on the subject of the female nude and driven by the practice of drawing. “What I dream of,” he would later explain, “is an art of balance, purity, tranquility... an art which is soothing... something similar to a good armchair.”

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