Interior Decorating

This blog used to feature Henri Matisse on a fairly regular basis. As a consistent employer of life models for many decades, the man undisputably deserves the honor. But I think I might be slipping a bit. The great Matisse hasn’t appeared on Museworthy in quite some time, and we must remedy that, asap!

During the 1920s, Matisse was living on the French Riviera along the Côte d’Azur. At the time, the city of Nice was was attempting to develop a film industry, one that would hopefully compete with the prospering cinema scene of Hollywood. Film studios, of course, attract young hopefuls with dreams of fame and performing. Many of those hopefuls are young women. So it was inevitable that Matisse would cross paths with the 20 year-old Henriette Darricarrière, a dancer, actress, and trained violinist who was working as an extra in the film studios of Nice.

The timing couldn’t have been better, as Matisse’s previous model, Antoinette Arnoud, became pregnant in 1921 and could no longer model. So along came Henriette, ready, willing, and able to be her replacement. Matisse was delighted by Henriette’s confident, receptive personality and natural charisma. Most of all, he appreciated her innate ability to pull off the more flamboyant, theatrical settings he was focused on in his art during this period, mainly, the North African “odalisque” which was inspired by his trip to Morocco in 1912. Matisse was concerned that his previous models didn’t project enough authenticity and poise for this persona. Wearing the turbans and veils Matisse provided for them, they came across merely like young women playing “dress up” in oriental costumes, and getting hopelessly lost when placed among colorful walls and fabrics, exotic decor and, some might say, cluttered compositions. But not Henriette. She had the muscular dancer’s body and self-assured presence to make it work.

Years of a highly successful artist/model collaboration between Matisse and Henriette culminated in this painting from 1926, Decorative Figure on an Ornamental Background. It was met with mixed reviews, but I like it 🙂 Henriette sits nude, upright, and confident in front of swirling patterned wallpaper, an oriental rug, and a plant. Gotta have the plant!

15 thoughts on “Interior Decorating

  1. ‘Decorative Figure on an Ornamental Background’ I like it too! & the devil’s in the details, thanks for calling attention to the potted plant. I find if I hold my hand up hiding the plant, the composition, expectedly,, changes. Oddly though if I make an ‘L’ with my hand so the fruit bowl is covered too, she suddenly becomes a two dimensional cutout reminiscent, or prescient, of his later scissor collages. Interesting. Curious. Fun!

    BTW: Thanks for the kind words on flickr!

    • artmodel says:


      I’m not surprised that you appreciated this painting. I love your little experiments with the composition! I tried them myself, and it’s fascinating how much the appearance changes. You’re so smart!

      You’re most welcome for my comments on Flickr, but I’m the one who should be thanking you 🙂


  2. Andrew says:

    When you say she is sitting upright, you weren’t kidding. There’s a perfectly straight, vertical line from her shoulder to her butt. I envy her posture (I tend to slouch) but her form is oddly square. Also, her tiny head doesn’t really fit on her football-player neck.

    Another weird thing is the wallpaper, which is parallel to the floorboards on the bottom-right of the composition and perpendicular on the upper-left, with to clear corner.

    I guess when you are Matisse you don’t need to worry about such trivialities.

    • artmodel says:


      Great observations, as always. Matisse takes plenty of latitude, to be sure. No one can ever accuse him of being a slave to accuracy or realism! But that’s what makes him Matisse.

      Yes, that is definitely the straightest line of posture I’ve ever seen!

      Thanks for commenting.


  3. Lori Gordon says:

    Look at the mirror… it has the same coloring as the wallpaper, which leads me to assume that she is surrounded in a room with such busy wallpaper! Wow! Love, love, love this work by Matisse! I’ve never seen it before. Thanks, Claudia!

    • Lori Gordon says:

      Clarifying… usually you don’t see rooms such busy wallpaper on ALL walls. Maybe they did in the ’20’s though. I’d love to be surrounded by such busy-ness. Well, maybe in 1 room of my house. 🙂

      • artmodel says:


        I’ve always been more of a painted walls girl myself. But if anyone could make me appreciate wallpaper, it would be Matisse! “Busy” indeed! But works so well in this painting.

        Thanks for your comments.


  4. Casey Klahn says:

    The master! Matisse puts the world back into a 2 dimensional box better than anyone.

    Hope to see more, Claudia. And, this has a fantastic image quality, too. Nice job!

    • artmodel says:

      Casey!! Thank you, friend!

      I do believe it was Matisse who first brought us “together”, in the blogosphere that is 🙂

      The image quality is quite good, I agree. I wish I could find such good quality in all the images I want to post.

      Great to hear from you!


  5. Busy wallpaper like this on all 4 walls? Common in the better bawdy houses, bordellos, -or so I’ve been told. 😉

  6. fred says:

    Psychedelic, man.

  7. Willie Wambugu says:

    Hi Claudia,
    Am a young painter based in Nairobi,Kenya and am truly moved by your immense knowledge of the Fine arts and artists.
    Anyway,I wanted to welcome you on my site.It’s on
    Please feel free to post a comment and to download whatever interests you.
    I hope we can also share ideas.

    Willie Wambugu

    • artmodel says:


      Welcome to Museworthy! I’m delighted that a talented, creative artist like yourself has found this blog. And your blog is great! Yes, we will definitely share thoughts, ideas, and images. I’d like that a lot.

      Thanks again for your comments and your kind words. Nice to meet you, Willie!


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