Still Life, Henri Matisse
Henri Matisse
Still Life
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Henri Matisse

Still Life, 1941

405 x 530 mm
Inventory Number
Object Number
16759 Z
Can be presented in the study room of the Graphische Sammlung (special opening hours)


About the Work

This light still life of containers and fruits is one of a series of variations Henri Matisse drew in Nice during the summer of 1941. With minimal means the artist characterised the different objects. Dominating the composition is an upended pot of hammered copper. Beside it we can make out part of an oriental-looking vase, with visible plant stalks emphasising its glassy transparency. The more or less rhythmically arranged second vase in the background, the dish with figs, a melon and, in the foreground, six individual fruits that resemble pears and peaches all look as if they have been put there by chance.

Seen in extreme close-up, the interplay looks like a detail from a larger image. Grouped on an indeterminate ground, the surface of the paper becomes three-dimensional and everything seems to present itself in a bright light. The objects arranged here were taken from the artist's immediate vicinity. We also encounter them in his paintings and they can also be found in photographs. For the experienced artist, it was not what he had thought up but what he had observed that provided a reason to paint - a challenge he set himself in order to master basic design ideas using only pen and ink. With just a few thin lines he recorded the outlines, conveyed the material quality and at the same time gave some idea of the objects' weight and volume. A single, prominent accenting of the melon with a broad pen stroke lends it additional heaviness and thus creates a balanced relationship to the dimension of the neighbouring pot, whose playful decoration makes it look lighter than it is. During the summer of 1941, in the middle of the war years, the artist - who was over seventy years old by then - drew a great deal. In addition to numerous still lifes, his preferred subjects included faces and female nudes. If we take into account that his artistic activity had previously had to stop for several months after a serious operation, he must have found it easier to draw intensively rather than paint. But these drawings were not produced in the service of painting. For Henri Matisse, drawing remained an independent, never-ending process of clarification throughout his life. In the Frankfurt collection, the French artist's 'Still Life' demonstrates his telling contemporaneity with the late work of Paul Klee. The museum's drawing by David Hockney testifies to Matisse's lasting influence on the next generation.

About the Acquisition

The Frankfurt businessman Dr. Kurt Möllgaard and his wife, Marga, began collecting modern art after 1945. From 1964 on they donated parts of their collection to the Städelscher Museums-Verein. Kurt Möllgaard commented on his actions: "We are consciously continuing a tradition which has been cultivated to a remarkable extent by those citizens of Frankfurt who were forced to leave their homes after 1933." In 1987, after the death of his wife and his son, Möllgaard founded the Kurt and Marga Möllgaard Foundation. Since then it has enabled the purchase of further artworks, primarily for the Collection of Prints and Drawings.

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