Throughout the artist’s life, drawing has been a core discipline for Henri Matisse. "Henri Matisse: The Internal Laboratory" at the Museum of Fine Arts in Lyon discloses how the artist practiced daily and continuously in the privacy of his studio.

Matisse often compared himself to a juggler or to an acrobat, daily maintaining the flexibility of his work instrument.

Анри Матисс. Большой красный интерьер
Большой красный интерьер
1948, 146×97 см
Henri Matisse (1869 – 1954) used a wide range of media for his drawings, such as pencil, charcoal and stump, pen and ink, quill and brush. He made sketches on the sheets from sketchpads, margins of letters and, certainly, on fine arts paper. His sketches were intended both for his paintings and sculptures. Matisse’s drawings not only surround, precede, accompany and extend other artistic forms in his oeuvre, but also reveal themselves as independent constellations. 

The exhibition illustrates the main moments in this artistic journey of Matisse, arranged in 14 thematic and chronological sequences. The exposition begins from the apprenticeship years at the very start of the 20th century, through the studies for the chapel of the Rosary in Vence (1948–49) and ends with the final masterpiece and culmination of an entire lifetime for artist.

Left: Henri Matisse, "Large Red Interior" (1948). Centre Pompidou, Musée National d'Art Moderne, Paris

Анри Матисс. Дама в голубом
Дама в голубом
1937, 92.7×73.7 см

The model for the painting "Woman in Blue" (see Illustration above) was Lydia Delectorskaya, a beautiful young Russian immigrant who worked closely with Henri Matisse during the last twenty years of his life. Although she sits for the artist once in 1934, she really becomes his model only in the following years. For this portrait Delectorskaya designed the sumptuous violet-blue dress herself, using fabric that Matisse had bought in Paris. The resulting concoction, held together by loose stitches and pins, was intended only for use in Matisse's studio in Nice and appears in several of his paintings of this period.

Анри Матисс. Молодая женщина в белом на красном фоне
Молодая женщина в белом на красном фоне
1946, 92×72.5 см
The exposition identifies the pivotal points in Matisse’s approach to drawing—from the black of ink or pencil to the modulated white of paper, from the softness of smudged shadows to the light emanating from the final brush drawings. Here we can see his experiments with colour in his painting or his work on volume in his sculptures. Each room in the exhibition offers a dialogue between drawings and paintings, etchings and sculptures. Works are echoing each other and bringing an extra touch in the atmosphere of his various studios. This is first one on Quai Saint Michel, in Paris from 1894, then in Issy-les-Moulineaux from 1909, and finally, in Nice from 1918 until his death in 1954. A small exception is the period of 1943–48, which Matisse spent in Vence.

Left: Henri Matisse, «Young woman in white (Extended model in white dress)» (1946). Museum of Fine Arts, Lyon.

The exhibition "Henri Matisse: The Internal Laboratory" at the Museum of Fine Arts in Lyon will last until 6 March, 2017

Based on materials from the official website of the Museum of Fine Arts, Lyon