Mental chair for Sunday evening

I have already quoted Matisse once on his idea of art providing a “mental chair” to the observer, but here it is, shown in all its glory in a small painting of a reclining woman (1946).


What’s unusual about it?

The woman is taken from above, as if Matisse were hovering over her with his easel. The perspective is twisted so much the room resembles a capsule or a cocoon. The girl is totally relaxed: look at the way Matisse painted her legs.

She appears to be both lying down and flying with the chair cover becoming her wings.

Do you recall Cezanne’s theorem that everything is made of cyliners, pyramids, balls and boxes? Matisse says, at least in this painting, that everything’s built mostly of hearts, a blue box and a black square.

And if the hearts are more or less an obvious though sentimental choice, what’s the role of the black box (linked to the chair by the red border)? And what about the space of green and yellow dots that resembles a field with flowers behind the chair?

IMG_2163 - копия (2)

Is it a door to this warped room of calm soaring? A black square that the observer can use to come and leave?

And what about the plant that resembles a birdview of a palm tree? It does help to build up the flying sensation, but was it its sole purpose?

IMG_2163 - копия (3)

Any ideas? I’d love to hear what you think.


  1. Hmmm … Something in this image, maybe the diagonal composition, suggests flowing, floating, passing by (passage of time?) The blue floor reminds me of a sea and the plant against the blue, of a palm against a blue sky. The arms of the model around the bodice of the dress, make her look like holding a big heart on her chest. The black square is an opposite of the whiteness of the dress – but not sure of its symbolism. And yes, I can see the legs under the dress 🙂

  2. I can’t say that I can see the girl’s legs,although I think I see the impression below the dress of what I think are supposed to be her legs.She looks very calm and relaxed and peaceful.When i first looked at the picture I suddenly had this image of Matisse on the ceiling fan with his easel.

  3. For me it’s almost as though the room is a box that someone has picked up and tilted so that everything is falling to the side, but she looks so relaxed and calm, like when you slump down on a comfortable chair in the summer and drift peacefully in and out of sleep. I think Leslie is on to something with her being romantically involved with Matisse, the obvious thing being the love hearts, but there is also something alluring about her facial expression…

    1. Frankly, Matisse was a cripple at the time, with no romantic involvement physically possible. But it is the beauty of his genius that makes today’s observers think the work is soaked with love.

  4. Maybe she’s having an out of body experience? I can’t, for the life of me, see any legs on the woman. If that is a chair beneath her, she must be lying on the arm rest. She is wearing a white gown – what is the significance to that ? Was it wedding gown? The leaves of the plant do look like potential wings. The expression on her face is rather interesting. She seems pleased with herself and maybe a bit spaced out? (hence the levitation) A bit too much of the sauce? Was she his wife or one of his mistresses?

    1. This was fun to do. I love the questions you ask. I too see a young bride in love and content. I think the connection with the plant/bird is a nature/ biological one. The black door does show she is allowed to leave if she wants. The flowers could be interpreted as a reinforcement of her content or comfort? I can see a silhouette of her body which could be legs partly open. Not too sure abot the ‘cookies and cream’ rug thing she sits on. Interesting piece thanks for the share.

        1. I agree. I joined this blog to push myself into learning more about Art and finding my own perspective and it has been so lovely to engage with this post and think about what a painting means to me and to others. I love how we also see similar things. I shall be an arti critic in no time 😉 thanks again

    2. No, it was just a white gown, not a wedding one, and several other drawings are known that show the same gown, and the model lying on the same fur coat. His wife left him in 1939, and in 1946 he was an invalid, unable to move.

      Now – isn’t it amazing that a crippled artist could create something that makes us think of anything but love, flight, levitation?

      1. So maybe he was incurring the same affliction on the subject. She was immobile and levitating. I’m not sure she wasn’t thinking of love with that dreamy look on her face.

        1. Most likely, she was very uncomfortable, tired, bored, and wanted to go swimming after hours of posing. Yet, the artist wanted us to see her levitating and smiling in this special way, and that’s the way we see her )

It would be grand to hear from you now!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: