The sitter, Margareta Moll, was born in Mulhouse in 1884. She was a sculptress and painter and, with her husband Oskar, a pupil of Matisse. Both were early collectors of his work.
Matisse had recently developed a daring style, using crude brushmarks and vibrant colours in dazzling contrasts. But the painting's spontaneous technique and the simplicity of its design are misleading: Greta Moll recalled that she had to sit during ten three-hour sessions.
After seeing a painting by Veronese in the Louvre in Paris, Matisse reworked the portrait extensively, broadening the arms and emphasizing the curve of the eyebrows, to give the figure grandeur and monumentality. The flowered cotton print against which the sitter is placed reappears in a number of his works at this time.
Image above: © Succession Matisse / DACS