Henri Matisse, 1869-1954

Haitienne. Portrait de Carmen. 1945.


Original lithograph in black ink. 1944/45. Signed in pencil. Inscribed in pencil by Matisse: ‘ep d’artiste’ (artist’s proof) and numbered 5 from 10 proofs. The issued edition was 200 signed impressions. Edition printed at the Atelier Mourlot, Paris. Edition issued by the Black Sun Press, Washington 1946.

Ref: Duthuit-Matisse – Matisse L’Oeuvre Gravé no 567.  
Matisse ‘Planche Reference’ (the studio record of prints): Pl 273

Provenance: Private Collection, Chicago.

Excellent impression on cream velin (wove paper). Excellent condition. Drawn virtually to the full sheet size: sheet 400 x 300mm.

Price: £19,000 (approx $26,600) (approx €21.660)

This portrait is a study of Carmen, the Haitian woman who was a favourite model for Matisse in the mid 1940’s.

‘Haitienne’ was drawn as part of the great series of female portraits which dominated  Matisse’s drawing and printmaking at the period just at the end of the War. As early as 1939 Matisse began thinking about a series of such portraits, inspired by Baudelaire’s poems for ‘Les Fleurs du Mal’. However it was not until virtually the end of the War that he really began to focus on the idea.

In 1944 he painted a study of Annalies Nelck, a favourite model, and donated the work to be sold in aid of a children’s charity. Whilst working on the oil he made numerous drawings of her and that revived his interest in the ‘Fleurs du Mal’ project. Making the drawings also stimulated him to start on a big series of chalk-drawn lithographs of female heads.

The first series of these lithographs, intended for the ‘Fleurs du Mal’ set, were never editioned due to damage to the plates, but the fourteen studies for the series ‘Visages’ with poetry by Pierre Reverdy were issued in 1945. At the same period he was working on the largest series of these female portraits, for a set inspired by the poetry of Jean-Antoine Nau and entitled ‘Poésies Antillaises’. This was intended to be 28 compositions. In all the issued sets the lithographs were issued unsigned. ‘Haitienne’, here, is one of the few such works of the 1940’s which was issued hand-signed.

Matisse was particularly attracted to the Nau poems because they were inspired by the landscape and lifestyle of Martinique and of the Caribbean. Matisse greatly admired the peoples of the South Seas and the Caribbean, inspired by their ‘exoticism and emotional richness’. In the 1940’s one of the models who appears most in his work, and the principal model  source for the ‘Poésies Antillaises’ subjects was Carmen, who was born in Haiti and is the subject of the lithograph here.

‘Haitienne’ was drawn for the ‘Poesies Antillaises’ series but was removed from that group so that the edition could be printed at Mourlot and sold through a book-publisher friend in Washington whom Matisse had met before the War. The ‘Poesies Antillaises’ album, although completed, was never issued at the time and only appeared in 1972.  This study of Carmen is one of the only lithographs of this ‘South Seas’ period of Matisse’s drawing which was issued at the period in a signed edition. Signed artist’s proofs for the edition, as here, are particularly rare.


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