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Artistic Drama

Matisse – The Green Stripe - 1905; Oil and tempera on canvas, - 40.5 x 32.5 cm (15 7/8 x 12 7/8 in) - Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Copenhagen (click photo for larger image)Amélie Parayre married Henri Matisse (1869-1954) in 1898. It was his aura of desperation and danger that had first attracted Amélie to him. She posed for, or presided over, every one of the great revolutionary canvases he produced in the first years of the 20th century. She left him after 31 years of marriage. More on that a bit later. In his green stripe portrait of his wife, he has used color alone to describe the image. Her oval face is bisected with a slash of green and her coiffure, purpled and top-knotted, juts against a frame of three jostling colors. Her right side repeats the vividness of the intrusive green; on her left, the mauve and orange echo the colors of her dress. This is Matisse's version of the dress, his creative essay in harmony.  Matisse painted this unusual portrait of his wife in 1905. The green stripe down the center of Amélie Matisse's face acts as an artificial shadow line and divides the face in the conventional portraiture style, with a light and a dark side, Matisse divides the face chromatically, with a cool and warm side. The natural light is translated directly into colors and the highly visible brush strokes add to the sense of artistic drama. 

Henri Matisse - Large Reclining Nude, 1935 - oil on canvas - 66 x 92 cm (approx. 26 x 36) The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Cone Collection formed by Dr. Claribel Cone and Miss Etta Cone of Baltimore, Maryland, BMA (click photo for larger image)“Large Reclining Nude” was a work in progress for over six months, during which time Matisse discussed its composition with a favorite patron, Etta Cone; she acquired the work the following year. The model was Lydia Delectorskaya. Madame Matisse felt threatened by her husband’s close relationship with Lydia. Lydia Delectorskaya (click photo for larger image)A golden-haired beauty from Siberia, Lydia was orphaned at a young age, and managed on her own wits to flee Russia in its post-Revolution years. She ended up in Nice, France, with no money, job or connections. Lydia found employment in the Matisse household as both a studio assistant and domestic worker. She was hired by Amelie. Eventually, Amelie gave Matisse an “it’s her or me” ultimatum—and Matisse chose his wife. But Lydia tried to shoot herself in the chest when she was asked to leave—and the emotional toll on the Matisse marriage was just too deep. Matisse and Amelie divorced—and Lydia remained with Matisse for the rest of his life.

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