Nude in the Studio, by Henri Matisse

This bright study in orange and green is one of the artist's first major paintings of the female figure. The technique is suggestive of Neo-Impressionism, but is here handled with surprising impetuosity. In fact, this picture, which marks Matisse's first (and temporary) liberation from the somber lights of his early manner, certainly owes its technique and luminosity to the landscape studies done in Brittany during his third successive summer trip in 1897. It was there, under the guidance of such minor painters as fimile Wery and John Russell (who were familiar with Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works), that Matisse's palette lightened for the first time.

What is surprising in the present painting is that he converted these lessons of plein-air painting to a studio nude with such The theme of the artist's studio, presented in other contexts in Studio of Gustave Moreau and the Interior with Top Hat - the latter presumably a corner of Matisse's studio on the Quai Saint-Michel - will ultimately emerge as the most significant in the artist's career. At this early stage, however, he has not yet recognized the full potential of this motif as a vehicle for expressing the human condition of the artist, even though there are indications of other artists at work in the space beyond the model. Very possibly, Matisse did this study in the Moreau atelier, working side by side with Albert Marquet, one of his closest friends of the period. A comparison of the two works produced simultaneously by these two future Fauves is in-structive. Marquet models his figure in colors almost as strong as those of Matisse, but the shape of the body is firmer and the light more conventional. Matisse, on the other hand, brushes in the body of the amply proportioned model with greater daring, so that she does not form an abrupt contrast with the Impressionist-inspired background, whereas in the Marquet picture there is a somewhat awkward contrast between the sculptural solidity of the body and the fluttering brushwork of the background.

The deftness and lightness of touch exhibited in this picture should be compared with such subsequent nude studies as Male Model, which were painted at a time when Matisse was digesting the lessons of Cezanne. In the later figure the weight and mass of the brushstroke, as well as the dense patches of strong, related hue, are infinitely more constructive.