Jay Fisher

You really wanted this painting to hang near the Blue Nude and that’s just exactly how Etta chose to put it. She put the Blue Nude on one wall and on the opposite wall; she put the Large Reclining Nude. Here we have a flattened figure, where the pain doesn’t really seem to have any articulation in terms of space. It looks like a flat color that’s just painted in the same lightness and darkness all the way through. And it almost looks like this nude is collaged or glued on the blue crisscrossed couch that she must be lying on, that’s all flattened out as well. So we have the flat nude, the flattened couch above her, we see a chair, actually a chair with her curly back, bouquet of flowers sitting on the seat of the chair. And even that is all flattened out together with a white tile wall, green lines in between the tile.

So we see a kind of progression of flattened surfaces, but when you see it all together, you kind of read in the volume of her figure, and she doesn’t really. She looks flat, but you know she’s not; she’s actually the only thing along with the flower I think above her that carries some volume. Matisse sets up this wonderful linear balance, she just inhabits that space so perfectly and when she gets a little, you know too big, then Matisse just cuts off, cuts off the hand, cuts off leg and the other foot and the knee. So she has to fit within that tight space which makes us feel like she is very much compressed there and almost like a spring. You could imagine her just kind of bursting out of that space. Matisse is often interested in suggesting a kind of tension and there is a tension in the way that her body is stretched out.

The other thing that’s so small of course is her head, her head just looks miniature and as we look at the progressive photograph, she at one period had a much bigger head and Matisse just kept reducing it and reducing it. And just getting to the essence of what he wanted. This Reclining Nude is much different than the reclining nudes of 1907, but yet, it’s been totally transformed by a new way of looking.

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