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Here again, is Jay Fisher, Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Jay Fisher

So the large reclining nude in many ways is one of Matisse’s most ambitious sculptures of large scale, beginning it in 1922 and finishing it in 1929. There are comments from family and people that visited just wondering if he was ever going to finish it. It starts at a period when Matisse was again very interested in the reclining nude subject. He had kind of dropped it for a while, what motivated him to take it up again was in Nice, the museum there had a plaster cast of Michelangelo’s great Medici Tome, with the two sculptures, night and day on either side of the tomb, and Matisse was fascinated with that. In fact, he had been fascinated with it much earlier in his life when he actually had traveled to Florence and seen the actual tomb. Not unlike, some of the earlier sculptures like The Serpentine, it started as a more solid model kind of figure and then what we see in the final result is that it almost looks like Matisse took a large, knife and began to slice off part of the figure, almost redisplaying instead of model volume.

So she gets much more severe and structured. The other thing that I feel so strongly when I look at the sculpture is again, the tension. I mean it makes my back ache to look at it. How could a model have possibly held that pose and probably not for very long, at a certain point? I think he leaves the model behind and the sculpture takes on its own structure, but you feel the tension in the torso and of the tension of the muscle. As you walk around you also see the twisting of the sculpture and the twisting of the limb, but it’s also very solid and you feel every ounce of weight that the sculpture actually have.

Male Speaker 1

For tips on viewing this ambitious sculpture in the way Matisse intended, select the green button. Press the red button to hear Matisse describe the process of envisioning a sculpture in his mind. Press the yellow button to enjoy a French cabaret song.