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Spanish Woman with a Tambourine

Painting, 1909, 92×73 cm
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Description of the artwork «Spanish Woman with a Tambourine»

In 1908 – 1909, Matisse created a series of female portraits. The models, including both professional sitters and the artist's acquaintances, distinguished themselves by their self-confidence, a direct look, devoid of coquetry, and expressive facial features (1, 2, 3). Perhaps, they looked this way because just at that time Matisse was in a relationship with the artist Olga Meerson: her appearance and character corresponded to all these qualities.

The picture Spanish Woman With a Tambourine belongs to this series. In addition to the fact that it embodies a collective image of all the female qualities that the artist had always appreciated and preferred to find in his models, this is another portrait with a bright exotic flavor. By the time of its creation, Matisse had not yet had a chance to visit Spain (it happened a little later, in 1910), and the girl in the picture was not from this country.

According to some information, she was a Gypsy, and the other – an Italian. Matisse sought to achieve the resemblance to the nationality stated in the title of the canvas with the help of a characteristic costume, consisting of a mottled blouse, a cropped jacket with embroidery and a red skirt. The traditional hairstyle and spirited pose of the model are the final accents of the expressive Spanish image. A burning shade of black and sharp color contrasts also emphasize it.

The distinct dark contour of the pictures of that period often made them look strange and even aggressive to the public. For example, Girl with A Black Cat (Portrait of Matisse's daughter) really horrified the guests of the collector Sarah Stein, who bought the canvas. And The Girl with Green Eyes aroused resentment of the public at the exhibition in Paris in 1910, and in London, at the end of the same year. Although The Girl with Tulips is sitting, modestly crossing hands on her lap, she seemed insane to the visitors of Shchukin's house in Moscow.

Nevertheless, the Russian collector bought out the Spanish Woman With a Tambourine as soon as it appeared in the Paris art gallery Bernheim-Jeune. Before leaving for Moscow, Spanish Woman was exhibited at the spring Salon des Independants (of the independent) in 1909. And on arrival in Russia, it became part of the ensemble of the famous Pink Drawing Room in Shchukin's house.
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About the artwork

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Art form: Painting

Subject and objects: Portrait

Style of art: Expressionism

Technique: Oil

Materials: Canvas

Date of creation: 1909

Size: 92×73 cm

Artwork in selections: 54 selections

Exhibitions history