“Jeunes Filles et Fleurs”- An Exceptional Ink Drawing by Henri Matisse, c.1947

16th March 2023


Sotheby Parke-Bernet 4th of May 1967 lot 26

Schoneman Galleries New York

Private Collection

The drawing is accompanied by a letter confirming that the work is recorded in the Matisse archives as item no. M119 and was certified as genuine by the daughter of the artist in 1966 prior to the Sotheby’s auction.

Henry Matisse (1869-1954) needs no introduction. One of the most important European artists of the 20th century, he pioneered a new approach to visual art as part of the Fauves (a group of young artists in belle epoque France who gained the sort of notoriety that their name, translating as wild beasts, might suggest). 

Our drawing was produced in 1947 towards the end of the artist’s life but in the midst of what he termed his “second life”. He had been diagnosed with cancer in 1941 and the treatment left him wheelchair bound and with various other medical issues. By 1950 he had stopped painting and turned to his famous cut outs but our drawing relates to a period of intense creativity whilst the artist recuperated in the suburbs of Nice.

A Henri Matisse ink drawing of two women and a vase of flowers framed
A Henri Matisse ink drawing of two women and a vase of flowers framed

The drawing relates to three known paintings from the same year. The first is titled Deux Fillettes, Fenetre Bleue. Please note that due to copyright restrictions we are unable to use images of Matisse’s paintings which are restricted for online use. As a result we have included hyperlinks that will take you to images of the relevant works. We apologise for the inconvenience this may cause.


Another version of this composition but with a very different colour palette Deux fillettes, fond jaune et rouge is in the collection of the Barnes Foundation in Merion, Pennsylvania. 


However the piece that relates most obviously to our drawing is one titled La lecture (deux fillettes, bouquet de pivoines sur fond noir). In this composition, the two female figures are in very similar poses to those sketched out by the artist in our drawing and the magazine that features so prominently in the foreground also forms part of both works. The main difference between the finished painting and the drawing is the composition of the vase of flowers and its size relative to the rest of the work.


The relatively simple composition is redolent of the work of Pierre Bonard, Matisse’s great friend and contemporary who died in 1947 and it has been suggested that this series of works might have been intended as a touching tribute from one artistic giant to another.

One additional stage in the evolution of the composition is provided by a work, also from 1947, titled Le Silence habite des Maisons. The brush drawing for this stage of the composition was sold at Christie’s for more than $400,000 in 1996 and a coloured acquatint of the image can be seen here


The brush drawing itself is shown here:


Our drawing was handled by the Schoneman Gallery in New York-major dealers with a particular interest in 20th century French artists who handled several other masterpieces by Matisse during this period.

Any graphic work by Matisse is sought-after but his drawings are particularly rare survivals with museums and major collectors competing to own them. The British Museum has a series of fine drawings by the artist but there are comparatively few examples in the major institutional collections as compared to his works on canvas. We are delighted to be offering a piece that is fresh to the market and of the highest possible quality and look forward to helping to place this wonderful drawing in a new home.

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