Five must-see Matisses

  • 19 June 2014

Looking for more Matisse after seeing The Cut-Outs at Tate? Or longing for something closer to home? We've rounded up five unmissable Matisses around the UK.

1. La Blouse Bulgare (The Bulgarian Blouse), 1920
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge

Sitting straight-backed in front of a vibrant red wall, the subject's upright posture doesn't convey confidence, but discomfort – her lips are pursed with apprehension, her eyebrows furrowed. The star of the portrait, as the title suggests, is the lilac blouse, accentuated with colourful floral designs and the collar decoration, which is rendered in impressionistic dabs of paint. The lion's share of the effort has been put into rendering the sitter's face and blouse; her arms, in contrast, are reduced to sketched outlines.

2. Woman in Oriental Dress, 1919
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Glasgow

Dominated by blues and greens, this portrait exudes coolness – not only in its colours, but in the gaze of the subject. Posing against an elaborately decorated background, the almond-faced sitter peers at the viewer with narrowed high-set eyes. Her east Asian clothing – a turquoise jacket with golden detailing over a sheer white shirt – falls open across her chest to reveal olive skin, reinforcing the coolness of the palette.

3. Portrait of Greta Moll, 1908
National Gallery, London

Greta Moll was a sculptor and painter who was a pupil of Matisse, and was one of the earliest collectors of this work. His portrait of Greta Moll was created shortly after he developed his bold aesthetic, creating powerful contrasts through broad brushwork and vivid colours. Matisse revised the portrait substantially during its creation, altering Moll's arms and eyebrows to give her a statuesque appearance. The floral print in the background is similar to the one featured in his later portrait, Woman in Oriental Dress (above).

4. Nude on a Sofa, 1919
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

If Matisse's Woman in Oriental Dress was cool, then this nude from the same year is positively cold. The composition is dominated by the muted beiges of the nude sitter and the dull grey of the sheet thrown over the sofa. The two forms seem to blend into one – the raised thigh nearest the viewer is reflected in the grey expanse of the sofa cover, whose folds mirror Matisse's unflinching rendition of the folds of skin across the sitter's neck and side – while the exposed reds and violets of the sofa and floor do little to warm the picture.

5. The Inattentive Reader, 1919
Tate Liverpool

Painted in pastel tones, the childlike simplicity of this picture channels the values of the naive art movement, building the scene in loose outlines and blocks of colour. There is no use of perspective in Matisse's depiction of the rose tiles on the floor, and the walls of the room seem to meet at an impossible angle behind the sketchily drawn dresser. The sitter and her chair are precariously disproportionate, the upper halves of each threatening to overbalance them.

Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs is at Tate Modern until 7 September 2014. Save 50% on admission with a National Art Pass.

Tags: What to seeMuseums and galleriesGreat days out