Matisse’s Two Women Playing Draughts (1922)

In a recent entry, Matisse's Seated Young Woman in a Patterned Dress (1939), I showed that two circles resembling fruit were on another level Matisse's circular-framed glasses peering out of the picture. The fruit were so economically drawn that many may have questioned my interpretation. Here, though, in another drawing nearly two decades earlier Matisse does something similar.

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Captions for image(s) above:

Matisse, Two Women Playing Draughts (1922) Pen and ink on paper. Musée Matisse, Nice

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The woman on the left has her eyes closed. She is the "artist" dreaming. The forearm under her head emerges from a loose sleeve which with the cushion under it resembles a 3-D eye, not unlike one in a painting by Mantegna. The other arm extended like a painter's emerges from an "eye" as well, her breast. The curve of her shoulder is then joined to the edge of her sleeve to resemble an "eyelid" covering her eye-like breast.

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Captions for image(s) above:

L: Detail of Matisse's Two Women Playing Draughts (1922)
R: Diagram of above detail

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The right half of the image contains the "woman" that the dreaming "artist" has conceived of or painted. She is a "painting" of herself, her pose intentionally suggestive, I believe, of Manet's model in Le Déjeuner sure l'Herbe (1863), modern art's iconic model. She wears necklaces as a modern equivalent for the gold chains that Renaissance artists received from their princes and wore so proudly in their self-portraits. The "chains" must have been important to Matisse because he also made the edge of her sleeve echo their shape.

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Captions for image(s) above:

Detail of Matisse's Two Women Playing Draughts (1922)

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This scene, as so often in significant art, depicts the inside of the artist's androgynous mind. It is therefore full of hidden eyes to indicate that the inner eye replicates itself in the image it conceives, just as the  female "artist" conceives her own double in a male artist's composition. Not only are the white "squares" of the draughtsboard drawn to resemble circles but the top of what looks like a samovar forms a "pupil" inside the oval of an eye too. If the container holds alcohol - or is a hookah to smoke - the "eye" is creatively inspired as well.

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Captions for image(s) above:

Diagram of a detail in Matisse's Two Women Playing Draughts (1922)

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Now back to the caricatured "self-portrait" we last saw in the circles of fruit in Matisse's Seated Young Woman in a Patterned Dress (1939). Here, directly above his signature on the right-hand side of the page, two circles of fruit suggest once again the circular-framed specs Matisse was known for. Their short stems suggest the frames of his spectacles too. Remember those glasses; in Matisse's art they can appear anywhere.

Captions for image(s) above:

Detail of Matisse's Two Women Playing Draughts (1922)

Click image to enlarge.

Notes:

Original Publication Date on EPPH: 07 Sep 2012. © Simon Abrahams. Articles on this site are the copyright of Simon Abrahams. To use copyrighted material in print or other media for purposes beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. Websites may link to this page without permission (please do) but may not reproduce the material on their own site without crediting Simon Abrahams and EPPH.