In the process of creating five busts of Jeanne Vaderin between 1910 and 1916, Matisse radically reconfigured traditional representation of the human face. Jeannette I and II were created directly from the model, which is evident in their characteristic, hawklike profiles. These two works then served as templates for Jeannette III, IV, and V. As he progressed with the series, Matisse dramatically abstracted his subject, organizing the head into increasingly simplified chunks. In 1908 he explained that his goal in portraiture was not to achieve visual precision but rather to reveal the "essential qualities" of his sitters—qualities, he felt, that physical imitation could not capture.
This work is included in the Provenance Research Project, which investigates the ownership history of works in MoMA's collection.
Pierre Matisse Gallery, New York
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchased from Pierre Matisse, 1952
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