Skip to main content

Main Building

Mademoiselle Yvonne Landsberg

Henri Matisse, French, 1869 - 1954
For Matisse, modern portraiture meant clearing away superficial dimensions of the human likeness to reveal essential aspects of character. This portrait exemplifies that idea. Yvonne Landsberg was the daughter of a Brazilian family living in Paris, whose brother initially commissioned a portrait drawing; Matisse obliged with a conventionally appealing rendering. He then proposed that he make a painting, but this time he reserved the right to heed his own experimental inclinations. Completely reworked at each sitting, the portrait became progressively more difficult to recognize. Matisse’s final touch was to scrape curves into the paint radiating from the figure’s shoulders and hips. These arcs expand the form in space and conjure a budding flower, a visual analogy Matisse had used in other depictions of women. The final product, with its dark palette and harsh appearance, was challenging to contemplate, even for its maker, who confessed to a feeling of shock or surprise. The Landsbergs declined the painting. ...

Object Details

We are always open to learning more about our collections and updating the website. Does this record contain inaccurate information or language that you feel we should improve or change? Contact us here.

Please note that this particular artwork might not be on view when you visit. Don’t worry—we have plenty of exhibitions for you to explore.

Main Building