Henri Matisse: Blue Nudes
The Blue Nudes refer to a series of cut-outs by Henri Matisse. Completed in 1952, they represent seated female nudes, and are among Matisse’s final body of works. Blue Nude IV, the first of the four, took a notebook of studies and two weeks work of cutting and arranging before it satisfied him. The pose he finally arrived at for all four works—intertwining legs and an arm stretching behind the neck—was his favorite. The posture is similar to a number of seated nudes from the first half of the 1920s, and ultimately derives from the reposed figures of Le bonheur de vivre.
The Blue Nudes also reflect Matisse’s earlier sculptures. Despite the flatness of paper, they are sculptural in their tangible, relief-like quality, as well as the sense of volume created by the overlapping. Blue Nude I in particular can be compared with sculptures like La Serpentine of 1909.
The color blue signified distance and volume to Matisse. Frustrated in his attempts to successfully marry dominant and contrasting tones, the artist was moved to use solid slabs of single color early in his career, a technique that became known as Fauvism. The painted gouache cut-outs that comprise the Blue Nudes were inspired by Matisse's collection of African sculpture and a visit that he made to Tahiti in 1930. It took another twenty years and a period of incapacity after an operation before Matisse synthesized these influences into this seminal series.