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L'Odalisque

Henri Matisse

European Art

For Henri Matisse, printmaking was an extension of drawing. The 1920s marked a period of increased graphic output by the artist, including a series of lithographs depicting the model Henriette Darricarrère posing as an odalisque, the term for an enslaved woman in a harem. With the lithographic crayon Matisse achieved a charcoal-like effect, rendering in velvety tones the contours of her nude body, the texture of her transparent skirt, and the richly patterned studio background. In doing so, he also aestheticized sexual subjugation, like the many European artists before him who had trafficked in literary and pictorial fantasies and stereotypes of non-Western cultures.

In 1935 Odalisque was included in the first large-scale, monographic exhibition of prints by Matisse, held at the Brooklyn Museum. There its subject caused a stir, according to the Brooklyn Museum Quarterly: “The predominant subject throughout the prints was of course the female nude and the presentation of this subject was received rather noisily and with emotions as mingled as the visitors were varied.”


Titus Kaphar: I think [it] would be a really amazing performance . . . to bring these characters, these individuals, back to life—Matisse, Picasso, Gauguin—and to actually bring them into this space where their works are, to have them look at their space, enter and stand in front of these pieces and have them come in this moment where all the history we’ve experienced, we’ve seen, and force them to wrestle with it. Ultimately duct tape them, sit them in a chair, put them in a corner, and say, “We don’t want to hear anything you have to say. The one thing we are going to give you is you made beautiful pictures. That’s it. Now shut up and we are going to talk about this ourselves.” I think it’s a little too direct to be great art, but it would be fun to see. It would be really fun to see. I would go to that performance.
MEDIUM Lithograph on laid paper
  • Place Made: France
  • DATES 1924
    DIMENSIONS Image: 14 3/8 x 10 3/8 in. (36.5 x 26.4 cm) Sheet: 20 1/4 x 14 3/4 in. (51.4 x 37.5 cm)  (show scale)
    SIGNATURE Signed, "Henri Matisse" in pencil
    COLLECTIONS European Art
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    ACCESSION NUMBER 25.123
    EDITION Edition: 10/50, plate 52
    CREDIT LINE Museum Collection Fund
    RIGHTS STATEMENT © artist or artist's estate
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    CAPTION Henri Matisse (French, 1869-1954). L'Odalisque, 1924. Lithograph on laid paper, Image: 14 3/8 x 10 3/8 in. (36.5 x 26.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Collection Fund, 25.123. © artist or artist's estate (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 25.123_PS2.jpg)
    IMAGE overall, 25.123_PS2.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2010
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
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    Henri Matisse (French, 1869-1954). <em>L'Odalisque</em>, 1924. Lithograph on laid paper, Image: 14 3/8 x 10 3/8 in. (36.5 x 26.4 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Museum Collection Fund, 25.123. © artist or artist's estate (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 25.123_PS2.jpg)