Henri Matisse

Lydia with her Hair in a Net

Lydia with her Hair in a Net
(click image to zoom-in)
Author: Henri Matisse
Portraiture, Drawings, Lead pencil, 26x20.2 cm
Origin: France, Circa 1939

A light arabesque seems to twist around the dominant vertical in this drawing of Lydia Delectorskaya. The sitter's pose, the incline of the head and placing of the hands are all compactly organised around the invisible vertical axis, everything is subordinated to a single rhythm. Intertwined in a complex ornamental pattern, like the petals of an orchid, the drooping fingers seem to complete the spiralling movement. Matisse never sought to capture the individual nature of a particular sitter's hands, and in all his works the hands are a generalized symbol dictated by the composition.

Matisse himself described this approach in conversation with the writer Luis Aragon, in which they discussed Burmese statuary with their long, flexible arms, like those which he himself tended to depict - "and where the arm ends in a hand which seems like a flower on a stalk." Matisse described this as the Burmese symbol for a hand and added that the symbols could be composed freely and ornamentally.

Source of entry: gift of Lydia Delectorskaya, 1984

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