Male Speaker 1

Here again is Katherine Rothkopf, Curator of European painting and sculpture at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Katherine Rothkopf

The yellow dress is certainly one of my favorite paintings in the collection. Throughout the 20s, he painted many of these interiors with models in costume or in dresses. He started painting in 1929, worked on it for a little while and it just wasn’t working for him. So he took a break, he went on a trip to Tahiti, a place he had always wanted to go. And was there for a few months and really loved the flora and the light and the beauty of Tahiti. He came back from that experience, worked on her a little bit more, but it still wasn’t quite there and wasn’t quite satisfied. Finally, in 1931, he returned for the final time and finally finished it. It turns out she is sort of the end of this great period of Nice interiors for him. He then takes this three year break for making easel paintings and worked from the barn’s mural and worked from his first illustrated book.

So we can really look to her signaling the end of the 1920s Odalisque interiors and the beginning of the next period in his career. What’s so great about that painting is that Matisse has left so much of his exploration right on the canvas, you can see it through the Pentimenti that comes up through the paint. When he started the painting, she was certainly in a central position, but she was smaller. She becomes more monumental, her shoulders become larger, her arms have changed and she really becomes much more of a commanding figure as time moved on. And the sense of light and harmony between light and color and pattern is so beautifully articulated in this painting. It really is the culmination of a whole decade’s worth of work.

By the time he was done, it is though she is a flower sort of coming out of her shell, much like the sculpture Venus in a shell, that’s also in the exhibition. And I think when she started off, she seemed a little coquettish or too youthful or not serious enough and I think in the end, she becomes this very monumental, a very strong figure. And I think maybe he was waiting for that to happen.

Male Speaker 1

To hear about a surprise, Matisse arranged for his friend and avid collector Etta Cone, press the green button. Select the red button to learn about the details in this painting that illustrate changes Matisse made as he reworked it. Press the yellow button to hear Matisse in his own words reflect upon his attempts to finish this painting over many years.