Henri Matisse

(French, 1869–1954)

Blue Interior with Two Girls

, 1947
Oil on canvas, Image: 21 1/4 x 25 3/4 in.; Frame: 34 3/8 x 29 3/4 in.
Gift of Owen and Leone Elliott, 1968.38


"Absorbed by light, I was breaking loose from the space that was the background, sensing something beyond it, a cosmic space in which there were no walls."
          – Henri Matisse

Surrounded by a sensually poetic environment in his home and gardens in Vence on the French Riviera (where he had been in self-imposed exile during the Nazi occupation of Paris), Henri Matisse was able to immerse himself in conversation with his own feelings and memories, which he concentrated in familiar objects, models and spaces. Blue Interior is one of several small "Interiors of Vence" that Matisse produced between 1946 and 1948. These "interiors" were some of Matisse's last paintings on canvas.

The ever-present window in this late painting seems to float in a space of shimmering blue. The room's interior is not the only blue aspect of this painting: also depicted in varying shades of blue are the book, table, tree, and clothing worn by one of the women seated at the table. Matisse's use of blue hues allowed for a number of activities and objects to be represented without animation, preserving the overall compositional harmony of the scene. Matisse thought that a painting should allow the viewer to escape reality into a fictive realm.

The Elliotts told of a discussion they had with Pierre Matisse (son of Henri Mattise), a renowned art dealer in New York, from whom they had purchased several paintings. According to Pierre, his father had given him Blue Interior with Two Girls and advised that he hold onto it for a while because it was one of his best paintings.