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When Matisse returned again to “painting of intimacy” in 1934 he made great efforts to maintain the abstract perfection of The Dance even at the cost of definitively renouncing volume and depth. This shift in his painting coincided historically with an increase in political tension and the threat of war. The figures in Matisse’s paintings are shown as ever more self-absorbed, more nocturnal and unobtainable. Colour became less solid and form was reduced to a line or flowing sign: “A resonant, vain and monotone line”, in the words of a line from The Afternoon of a Faun that Matisse had illustrated in his 1922 edition of Mallarmé’s Poésies. In 1935 he again returned to that illustration, this time depicting it in a large-format canvas that he continued to work on throughout the war but left unfinished. The final achievement of this period of Matisse’s career is thus the series of drawings that he produced with the musical title of Thèmes et variations (1941).

Small Blue Dress before a Mirror
Henri Matisse
Small Blue Dress before a Mirror, 1937
(La Robe bleue refletée dans la glace)
Oil on canvas. 64 x 49 cm
The National Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto
Henri Matisse
Still Life with Sleeping Woman, 1940
(Nature morte à la dormeuse)
Oil on canvas. 82,5 x 100,7 cm
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Collection Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon
© Succession H. Matisse / VEGAP 2009

Still Life with Sleeping Woman