The young Nadia Sednaoui was presented to Henri Matisse in 1948 by his son-in-law Georges Duthuit, who had spotted her in the street. She was born in Egypt and physically inspiring, with a perfect oval face and bright eyes that lit up her copper complexion. A special affection developed between the artist and his model over the course of their weekly encounters during Matisse’s final years. His portraits of Nadia count among his most famous graphic works, with several of his ink drawings of her giving rise to series of aquatints. The model was often tenderly described in the title as possessing a ‘sharp profile,’ ‘pointed chin’ or ‘serious look.’This is one of the two Matisse drawings of Nadia in charcoal, and is later than most of his drawings of her, which date from 1948/9. This one, in a way, sums them all up: Nadia is shown in three-quarter profile, with a cheeky nose and fleshy lips. Above all, Matisse brings to life her burning pupils – not round, but outlined with assertive hatching that resembles bolts of lightning spearing off the paper into the viewer’s eyes.Gustav Klimt, Sitzende mit gerafftem Rock
The presence of women is preponderant in the works of Gustav Klimt. The majority of his iconic paintings and drawings are veritable odes to femininity.When we think of the Vienna Secession in terms of eroticism, his friend Egon Schiele springs more readily to mind. Yet Klimt was in the habit of first painting his models as nudes before adding clothes. In his drawings, especially, Klimt liked to feature women in a state of abandon, offering up their most intimate nudity to artist and viewer in a moment of absence or forgetfulness – invariably with their eyes closed and their head thrown back or, as in this drawing, to one side.
This exciting alternative version of Klimt’s famous Sitzende mit Gerafftem Rock (‘Nude in Silk Stockings on a Stool’), now in Vienna’s Leopold Museum, showcases his graphic vocabulary: sophisticated pose, insistent verticality, Oriental-patterned fabric…. But a key difference, compared to the drawing in Vienna, is the position of the model – shown with her legs folded back under her arms, on which she rests her face, thereby offering even more of her intimacy to the artist’s implacable pencil.
In 2012 the Leopold Museum – which holds one of the largest collections of works by Klimt – marked the 150th anniversary of his birth with an exhibition of his ‘intimate works.’ Nude in Silk Stockings on a Stool was one of the talking-points.