Reclining Odalisque with Checkerboard

In this work, Matisse appears to be recalling his experience in Morocco from 1912-13. Odalisques had been a fixation in French art since the beginning of the 19th century, a means to explore exotic fantasies and a rich source of color and pattern. An odalisque was a woman who lived in a harem, often portrayed ‘ nude or semi-nude, reclining in a voluptuous manner.’ Matisse shows off the freedom of his penwork lines. The lines seem to hang suspended on the page, and the forms delineated by those lines have the same vivacity. Matisse’s primary focus seems to be on the playful juxtaposition of patterns that simultaneously enlivens and balances the drawing. The Odalisque figure is lithe and appears at one with the settings, curled around a linear checkerboard that has been conquered by an exotic vessel.

Original Medium: pen and black ink with scraping

Original Size: 15 1/8 x 19 15/16 in


Location: Baltimore Museum of Art