Henri Matisse Study for "Luxe, calme et volupté" 1904

  • Not on view

Matisse painted this oil sketch in the summer of 1904, while working alongside fellow artist Paul Signac on the French Riviera, and he completed the final painting (now at the Musée d'Orsay, Paris) the following winter. Both Signac and Matisse were influenced by the elder painter Paul Cézanne, whose discrete strokes of color emphasized the materiality of the painted surface over naturalistic illusion. But Matisse went further, using a palette of pure, high-pitched colors (blue, green, yellow, and orange) to render the landscape, and outlining the figures in blue. The painting takes its title from a line by the nineteenth-century poet Charles Baudelaire and shares the poems subject of an escape to an imaginary, tranquil refuge.

Gallery label from 2010.
Additional text

Matisse made this painting in the south of France, in the town of Saint-Tropez, while vacationing with family and friends. He created the forms in the painting—the human figures, tree, bush, sea, and sky—from spots of color applied with quick, firm, repeating brushstrokes with which he built up the picture. Matisse favored discrete strokes of color that emphasized the painted surface over the naturalistic portrayal of a scene. He also used a palette of pure, high-tone primary colors to render the landscape, and outlined the figures in blue. The painting takes its title, which means “Richness, calm, and pleasure,” from a line by the 19th-century poet Charles Baudelaire, and it shares the poem’s subject: escape to an imaginary, tranquil refuge.

Matisse, who was uninterested in conflict and politics, once said, “What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity, devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter.” The balance and serenity he strove for in this early painting would remain consistent in his work for the rest of his career.

Oil on canvas
12 13/16 × 15 15/16" (32.5 × 40.5 cm)
Mrs. John Hay Whitney Bequest
Object number
© 2024 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Painting and Sculpture

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Provenance Research Project

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André Saint, Paris
1932 Hôtel Drouot, Paris: "Collection d'un amateur" [André Saint], Auction, February 27, 1932, lot 84
Hodel (Purchased at Hôtel Drouot)
1951 Sidney Janis Gallery, New York
1951 - 1998 John Hay Whitney and Betsey Maria Cushing Whitney (Purchased from the above)
1998 The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Mrs. John Hay Whitney Bequest

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