Publication Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections:
The sitter for this painting was Lydia Delectorskaya, a Russian woman who had frequently posed for Matisse since the early 1930s. It is one of many portraits of the late 1930s in which Matisse focused on a dramatic costume rather than the personality of the model. The simplicity of the composition is striking, with a palette of only red, yellow, blue, black, and white. A seemingly casual harmony exists among the many billowing curves, the background grids, and the three drawings on the wall. Yet ten photographs taken over the three months that Matisse worked on the picture (now in the Museum archives) prove that this was a hard-won solution: the first version of the picture shows a relatively naturalistic composition of a woman leaning to her side, full of much greater detail and depth. Only gradually did the present state of the work evolve, with its absolutely flat picture plane, rather inexpressive portrayal, and the boldly exaggerated right hand encircled with beads. Ann Temkin, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 325.