Woman Seated before a Black Background
(Femme assise sur fond noir)
Oil on canvas
Henri Matisse’s painting is alive with brilliant color and rhythmic line. By placing the chair off-center and shifting the woman’s pose further to the right, he establishes a lively informality. The woman’s tilted head, smile, kind eyes, and relaxed arms enhance the sense of ease. The visual weight of the black background is lightened by the lively pattern of arabesques scratched into the wet paint with the pointed tip of the artist’s brush handle.
Matisse painted this affirmation of life amid the tumult of World War II (1939–1945) and during his recuperation from surgery for stomach cancer.
Italian Woman at the Fountain
Oil on canvas (1869)
William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s technique appears almost photorealistic—a result of close study of nature and the use of photographs that allowed him to capture the most minute details of his compositions. His typical works were classical, religious, or everyday life scenes characterized by their realism, restrained palette, and classically posed figures inspired by Italian Renaissance models.
A leading Academic painter of his time, Bouguereau also achieved great commercial success. He was wildly popular with critics and the public in France, as well as with American and British collectors in the late 1800s and early 1900s.