Modern and Contemporary Art
Artist: Henri Matisse, French, 1869–1954

Nature morte à la statuette (Still Life with Plaster Figure)


Oil on canvas

54 x 45.1 cm (21 1/4 x 17 3/4 in.) framed: 80.33 x 71.44 x 9.84 cm (31 5/8 x 28 1/8 x 3 7/8 in.)
Bequest of Kate L. Brewster

Henri Matisse, one of the most influential artists of the first half of the twentieth century, was renowned as both a painter and a sculptor. Although initially trained as a painter, engaging with sculpture allowed him to experiment with volume and line. Matisse frequently intertwined his painting and sculpture practice in his work, representing some of his smaller statuettes in his painted canvas. In both media, he radically innovated by abandoning academic canons of beauty and illusionism. In Nature morte à la statuette, Matisse completely transformed the traditional genre of still life painting. Some parts of the scene—fruits, bowl, and plaster figure—are still descriptive while the background of the painting is dominated by large color patches liberated from any formal constraints. The bowls and rug on the table are souvenirs from his trip to North Africa in 1906. The plaster figure testifies to Matisse’s contact with African art of which he borrowed several characteristics such as the elongated features. This canvas was painted one year after Matisse had caused a scandal at the Salon d’Automne exhibition in Paris where critics used the term Fauves (wild beasts) to describe his works as well as those by André Derain and Maurice de Vlaminck, hence giving its name— Fauvism— to the movement. Nature morte à la statuette illustrates Matisse’s innovative and modern approach by abandoning traditional perspective and insisting instead on the expressive form of pure color, while integrating non-European influences in his work.

19th–20th century
On view

Professor Oskar and Greta (Margareta) Moll, Breslau and Munich; Moderne Galerie Thannhause, Berlin; Kate Lancaster Brewster, Chicago (acquired from Thannauser, 1929).


“Accessions 1947–48,” Bulletin of the Associates in Fine Arts at Yale University 16, no. 3 (July 1948).

Alfred H. Barr, Jr., Matisse: His Art and His Public (New York: Museum of Modern Art, 1951), 83, 93, 105, 329, 558, ill.

Gaston Diehl, Henri Matisse (Paris: P. Tisné, 1954), 34, 47.

Gaston Diehl, Henri Matisse (Paris: P. Tisné, 1958), 37.

Jean Leymarie, Fauvism (Paris: Skira, 1959), 94.

Eric Gustav Carlson, “ ‘Still Life with Statuette’ by Henri Matisse,” Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin 31 (Spring 1967): 4–13, fig. 1.

Francoise Forster-Hahn, French and School of Paris Paintings in the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1968), 17, ill.

Massimo Carra, L’opera di Matisse: Dalla rivolta fauve all’intimismo, 1904–1928 (Milan: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 1971).

Albert Edward Elsen, The Sculpture of Henri Matisse (New York: Abrams, 1971).

John Hallmark Neff, “Matisse and Decoration: The Shchukin Panels,” Art in America (1975).

Mark Roskill, “On the Recognition and Identification of Objects in Paintings,” Critical Inquiry 3, no. 4 (1976).

Michael Mazzatesta, Henri Matisse, Sculptor/Painter: a Formal Analysis of Selected Works (Fort Worth, Tex.: Kimbell Art Museum, 1984).

Nina Öhman-Linde, Henri Matisse: Moderna Museet, Stockholm, exh. cat. (Stockholm: Moderna Museet, 1984).

Jack Flam, Matisse, the Man and his Art, 1869-1918 (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University, 1986).

Jacqueline Guillaud, Matisse: le Rythme et la Ligne (Paris: Editions Guillaud, 1987).

Caroline Turner and Robert Benjamin, eds., Matisse, exh. cat. (South Brisbane, Australia: Queensland Art Gallery, 1995).

Annette Gautherie Kampka, Oskar Moll: Gemälde und Aquarelle (Köln, Germany: Wienand, 1997), 81, ill.

Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Henri Matisse: Figure, Color, Space, exh. cat. (Ostfildern-Ruit: Hatje Cantz, 2005), 25, 121, fig. 5, 31.

Dorothy Kosinski and Jay McKean Fisher, Matisse: Painter as Sculptor, exh. cat. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007), 136–38, ill.

Claude Pommereau, ed., Matisse & Rodin au musée Rodin, exh. cat. (Paris: Musee Rodin, 2009), 25, ill.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.