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Henri Matisse | The Series of the Romanian Blouses

Henri Matisse | Romanian Blouse with Green Sleeves, 1937 | Cincinnati Art Museum

Henri Matisse's 'Romanian Blouse' is an exploration of composition, line, and form.
The movement of broad exuberant brushwork across the flat two-dimensional plane of the canvas emphasizes the energy of the composition and evokes the sitter's personality.
The Cincinnati Art Museum's painting is one of several paintings and drawings on a single theme - female models clothed in a boldly patterned Moroccan robes or embroidered Romanian blouses - that Matisse made in the late 1930s and early 1940s.

Henri Matisse | Romanian Blouse with Green Sleeves, 1937 | Cincinnati Art Museum

Textiles and exotic costumes fascinated him.
For Matisse, fabrics and garments were not only individual and autonomous subjects like the people he portrayed along with them, but also examples of method: their integration of color and pattern on a two-dimensional surface played a key role in the formation of his painterly aesthetic, Matisse was particularly drawn to the intricately embroidered peasant blouses; as he wrote to a friend, "I found a beautiful Romanian blouse, of ancient design... and I'd like many more of them, for which I'd willingly exchange a fine drawing".

Matisse was one of the great colorists of the twentieth century.
Early in his career he experimented with using bright, saturated colors applied in an arbitrary way, creating paintings that did not pretend to describe the natural world.
When a French art critic disparagingly used the word 'fauve' - "wild beast" - to refer to these works by Matisse and his colleagues in 1905, the art world seized "Fauvism" as the name for the movement.
Although Matisse also moved away from the Fauve style, the expressive use of color remained central to his work.| Source: © The Cincinnati Art Museum

Henri Matisse | The Series of the Romanian Blouses

From 1936, when the first Romanian blouse appears to 1940, the 'last' Romanian blouse at the Pompidou Center, there are several Romanian blouses by Henri Matisse.

The canvas must have been discussed, if not prompted by the visit of an old friend, the Romanian painter Theodor Pallady (1871-1956), whose portrait was sketched by Matisse, in Nice, in 1940.
The friendship between Matisse and the Romanian Pallady went back to their time together at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris (1891-1900).
Throughout their long correspondence a close affinity developed between the French and the Romanian painter.

Quite apart from the closeness in style and demeanour, the two friends shared a great many complicities, amongst which the image of Romanian muses, much in view in 20th century France, was a recurring subject.
In his correspondence, Matisse would accompany his letters by sketches and would use Pallady as a sounding board, sometimes talking about his artistic and personal anxieties.
In this context, the theme of the Romanian Blouse becomes more significant.

It was painted in 1940, during one of the darkest periods of the war, which the country had experienced under Nazi occupation.
Matisse was soon going to abandon Nice, which was being bombed by German planes, for the relative security of the ‘arriere-pays’, in Vence. Reading some of the artist’s diaries of that period one could detect that the cheerfulness of the "Romanian Blouse” was acting like an antidote, as it represented a glimmer of optimism and of hope.

Henri Matisse | La serie delle Camicette Rumene

Dal 1936, quando appare la prima camicetta rumena al 1940, l'ultima' che si trova al Centro Pompidou, ci sono diverse camicette rumene di Henri Matisse.

La tela deve aver fatto discutere, se non sollecitata dalla visita di un vecchio amico, il pittore rumeno Theodor Pallady (1871-1956), il cui ritratto fu abbozzato da Matisse, a Nizza, nel 1940.
L'amicizia tra Matisse e il rumeno Pallady risale al periodo trascorso insieme all'Ecole des Beaux Arts di Parigi (1891-1900).
Durante la loro lunga corrispondenza si sviluppò una stretta affinità tra il pittore francese e quello rumeno.

Oltre alla vicinanza nello stile e nel comportamento, i due amici condividevano molte complicità, tra cui l'immagine delle muse rumene, molto in vista nella Francia del XX secolo, era un soggetto ricorrente.
Nella sua corrispondenza, Matisse accompagnava le sue lettere con schizzi ed usava Pallady come cassa di risonanza, parlando talvolta delle sue ansie artistiche e personali. In questo contesto, il tema della camicetta rumena diventa più significativo.

Fu dipinto nel 1940, durante uno dei periodi più bui della guerra, che il paese aveva vissuto sotto l'occupazione nazista.
Matisse presto abbandonerà Nizza, bombardata dagli aerei tedeschi, per la relativa sicurezza dell'arriere-pays, a Vence.
Leggendo alcuni diari dell'artista di quel periodo si potrebbe rilevare che l'allegria della "Camicia rumena" fungeva da antidoto, in quanto rappresentava un barlume di ottimismo e di speranza.