A closer look at Matisse’s ‘Nu au bracelet (Nude with Bracelet), 1940’

By Daniel Fulco, Ph.D., Agnita M. Stine Schreiber Curator

We hope that you enjoy this linocut by Matisse in our collection. If you visit the museum, you are encouraged to see this print, which is currently on view in the North Corridor Gallery.

Henri Matisse (French, 1869‒1954)
Nu au bracelet (Nude with Bracelet), 1940
9 1/2″h x 6 15/16″w
Collection of Washington County Museum of Fine Arts
Anonymous gift, 2018.7.83

Like his contemporary and rival, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse approached printmaking with innovative techniques. Matisse was drawn to linocut printmaking because it allowed him to easily create buoyant, curvilinear, and geometric forms. The simplified shapes in Nu au bracelet prefigure his bolder works of the late 1940s and early 50s, in which he simultaneously represented form and space through highly streamlined, seemingly sculptural silhouettes. Additionally, the white lines in this work, which mark areas where Matisse carved into the linoleum, appear as if they have been sliced into black paper. The artist’s approach closely prefigures his creation of cut-outs, which he produced almost exclusively from the late 1940s until his death. In these works, Matisse used scissors to cut painted sheets into different shapes and sizes (some figural; others vegetal and abstract) that he then arranged into lively compositions characterized by their simplicity, remarkable coloristic contrasts, playful, effortless forms, and decorative qualities.

A major artist of the twentieth century, Matisse is perhaps best known for his boldly colored canvases depicting joyful, idyllic figures and interiors that are removed from the realities of everyday life and its woes. The intense colors found in his works from 1900‒05 brought him considerable fame as one of the Fauves (French, “wild beasts”), an artist group whose work emphasized painterly qualities and strong color over the representational subjects favored by the Impressionists.
This WeekendArt is sponsored by Ms. Martha Williams

To read past editions of WeekendArt, go to https://wcmfa.org/learn/virtual-experiences/weekendart/