Verbal Descriptions

Henri Matisse. The Red Studio. Issy-les-Moulineaux, fall 1911 59

Oil on canvas, 71 1/4" x 7' 2 1/4" (181 x 219.1 cm). Mrs. Simon Guggenheim Fund. © 2023 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Narrator 1: 5–9. The Red Studio. Painted in 1911 by French artist Henri Matisse, 1869–1954. Oil on canvas. 71 inches wide by 86 inches in height. 181 x 219 cm.

Narrator 2: This is a painting of an artist’s studio, without the artist. Paintings and frames are propped against the walls, sculptures rest on stools, and compositions hang at various heights throughout the room.

Most striking is the color. Matisse floods the canvas with red: a deep, rich red, like tomato soup. The walls are red; the floor is red. Even the furniture appears just as outlines against the red background: in fact, these outlines are really gaps in the red, revealing yellow or blue paint underneath. This overall red surface creates an effect of flatness, with little sense of depth.

We’ll take a tour of the studio, starting at the viewer’s left. In the left hand lower corner, the painting is taken up with an outlined rectangular table. Its near end – which is its short side – is cut off by the bottom edge of the picture. There are a few objects on the table. A white plate on which Matisse has painted a blue nude woman. A white box of blue pencils, sketchily painted in with visible sweeps of the brush. An empty wine glass, roughly outlined in pale blue against the red tabletop. A green glass vase with a round body and tall narrow neck. Out of the vase flows a long vine, with round green leaves. The plant creeps around a sculpture by Matisse, of a nude figure which sits near the far end of the table.

The outlined sides of the table lead the eye back towards the far left hand corner of the room. A large painting of a reclining nude leans against the left hand wall. Its right edge is in the corner where this wall meets the back wall. The nude is very roughly painted in pale flesh tones – against a bright pink background with purple and yellow flowers. Again, it’s one of Matisse’s own paintings: it’s clear now that this is his own studio.

Only a few, subtle lines indicate the separation of wall and floor and there are no lines indicating where the walls meet.

Turning to the right, the eye travels along the back wall of the room. A stack of gilded picture frames leans up against the wall. To their right, in the middle of the composition, stands a grandfather clock, outlined in yellow under–paint against the red wall. Only its face has been colored in white, with the Roman numerals marked in blue. But this clock has no hands. To the right, a chest of drawers is outlined in yellow. Then two small nude sculptures, one black, one white, standing on outlined pedestals. Dotted about the wall are more of Matisse’s paintings, all in his simplified, colorful style.

Our tour of Matisse’s studio finishes as we come down to the near right–hand corner. Here sit two chairs, facing back into the room.

Narrator 1: To hear the Collection Tour audio on this work , press 5–0–7.

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