Yellow Odalisque continues Henri Matisse’s 1920s modernizing of the odalisque, a figure popularized by French painters in Orientalist works of the 1800s. But here there is no confusing Matisse’s model with a Turkish concubine. Hélène Galtzine is instead very clearly presented as a modern European woman. Underneath the Persian robe, with its vibrant stripes of purple and yellow that serve to equalize her form with the picture’s patterned background, she wears a green printed skirt and white blouse, and her hair is cut short in a bob. The small Algerian painted table from the 1800s or early 1900s came from Matisse’s personal collection, as did the French pewter jug from the late 1700s decorated with gadrooning, or convex curves, that holds a bouquet of red, purple, and white anemones.
A public scandal over the challenging appearance of his works—the rawness and immediacy of their color in particular—brought fame to Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954) in 1905. Matisse, however, was no less remarkable as a draftsman. Though the artist’s work went through many changes over a long career, its essential method was to distill his emotional response to a given still life, landscape, or human form (his principal theme) in luminous color and pure, flowing line. The museum’s holdings cover aspects of Matisse’s work from 1900 to 1950 across the mediums of painting, sculpture, drawing, printmaking, the artist’s book, and ceramics. Many of the key works came as gifts from Philadelphians who collected Matisse in the years following World War I.
Source: Philadelphia Museum of Art