In search of Matisse, Henie Onstad Art Centre (HOK), September 10 December 13, 2015

After Image / Half Figure

English translation of the below illustrated German Inventory Card:

Inventory List Rosenberg, Paul (PR) 21.3.44/Dr.V.I/Spa


PR 28 Henri M a t i s s e (born 1869 –
HG. Woman in Front of a Fireplace. 1937.

Half-figure of a red-blonde woman sitting in an armchair
in front of a fireplace, on which two vases with flowers
are standing, above which a painting by Matisse
is hanging.

Oil on canvas – H.81 – W.60 cm.

Sign. Bottom left: Henri Matisse 1937.

Added in handwriting, left margin:
”15. Exchange” (ERR. Rochlitz (for Goering)
From Rochlitz to Pétridès, sold in Paris!

The inventory card by ERR, Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg, one of the main Nazi agencies dedicated to plundering cultural property during the Second World War, exceeds mere registration of an artwork; it offers an extensive iconographic exposition of this specific painting. The painting in question was confiscated by the ERR from the collection of the Jewish art dealer Paul Rosenberg in Paris in 1941. The card is marked HG, indicating that the painting was selected by Hermann Goering, from Jeu de paume, as one of six untitled paintings by Matisse from the Rosenberg collection, and listed as numbers 48-53 on the Addendum to the list of Artworks for the Collection of Hermann Goering, dated April 9, 1943. The painting had, however, arrived in Paris already on September 5, 1941. These lines are written on April 9, 2015: 72 years have passed since this painting officially was listed as part of the Goering Collection : today is exactly 75 years since the day of the German occupation of Norway on April 9, 1940 : and almost 78 years since Matisse executed the painting in his studio at 1 Place Charles Félix on May 4, 11 and 12, 1937.


Half-figure of a red-blonde woman: Lydia Delectorskaya, Matisse’s studio assistant, model and life-companion during the last years of his life is described as red-blonde, a feature obviously considered to be vital information. This specific characterization does not appear in any of the many other variations of this painting’s title. Lydia was of Russian descent.


Sitting in an Armchair: The reference to this everyday piece of furniture is a simile in disguise: the armchair represents Matisse’s idea of the function of a painting; “What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity, devoid of troubling or depressing subject matter… something like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue”7: it is probably one of the most well-known and misinterpreted quotes in the history of modern art. Rather than confirming Matisse as a bourgeois artist, the armchair–metaphor radically addresses the use value of painting.


In front of a fireplace: Kamin, the German word for fireplace, was probably not entirely neutral in 1944, carrying the connotation of departure and extermination in relation to the concentration camps. Kamin also means chimney, and “to wander through the chimney”, was the grotesque standing expression among concentration camp guards to describe the only known escape route from the camps. SS-Hauptsturmführer Karl Fritzsch addressed all new groups of arrivals at Auschwitz with the words: "The only way out of here is through the chimney.”


On which two vases with flowers are standing: The description of two vases on top of the fireplace follows abruptly, the second reference to the artist, known for taking great care in making floral arrangements, frequently a constitutive part of his painting process: “Asters help in the composition of a bouquet of more important flowers. Their role is purely visual." 8 Accordingly, when working on the paper cut-outs towards the end of his life, Matisse referred to the heaps of colored paper gathering around his bed as an interior garden; his personal and intimate extended field of painting.


Above which a painting by Matisse is hanging: The iconographic analysis concludes with this observation of the painting’s major self-reference: A Matisse painting within the painting in control of the domestic scene: also that depicting a model, most likely Lydia Delectorskaya, a Model within a Model: a Figure within a Figure. Painting’s Double; Matryoshka, a Russian Doll. The thorough, yet emphatic museum registration cannot hide the instrumentality of what Georges Didi-Hubermann has referred to as the “bureaucratic narcissism”9 of Nazi administration. Unheimlich, in English translated as uncanny, is a Freudian concept known for being untranslatable.10 It describes a specific terror; particularly threatening as it unexpectedly arises when one is off-guard, as in the homely setting of a Matisse painting. Although a professionally trained and observant mind rests behind this ERR document, there is no doubt as to the aim of the registration: territorialization.

Henri Matisse

Profil bleue dans un fauteuil ocre

Huile sur toile, 81 cm x 60 cm

Henri Matisse 1937

1 Place Charles Félix, Nice

(Excerpt from: Dag Erik Elgin; p.p. Provenance Painted in: Looters, Smugglers and Collectors: Provenance Research and the Market - Oslo, Henie Onstad Kunstsenter - Ed. by Tone Hansen & Ana María Bresciani. Verlag der Buchhandlung Walther König, Cologne 2015)

HG Collection / ERR 21.3.44
Inventory List Rosenberg, Paul: HG Collection / ERR 21.3.44

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After Image, In search of Matisse: HOK 2015 (Elgin, Haacke, Heier)

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Half Figure, In search of Matisse: Henie Onstad Art Centre Collection

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