Theodor Matthei (German, 1857-1921)
Nude Draped in Pink, 1887
Oil on canvas
37-1/2 x 23 inches (95.3 x 58.4 cm)
Signed and dated lower right: Th. M...hei 87
Joe Toschi of the Willoughby-Toschi Fine Arts Gallery, San Francisco, California, circa 1970;
Private collection, acquired from the above, 1975;
Private collection, Massachusetts, acquired from the above, 2015.
Theodor Matthei's Nude Draped in Pink is a masterful combination of the German artist's strengths as an academic figure painter, portraitist, and landscape artist. In this depiction of a partially draped full-length nude, Matthei gives full rein to his evident love of rendering the variety of textures required by each these genres.
The highly sculptural body of the young girl, while smooth, does not have the brushstroke-less 'licked finish' of a Bouguereau; it is more painterly. Matthei applies the pigment so that it follows the contours of the form, almost in the manner of a sculptor, also allowing for areas of thinner paint in the hollows and along the edges of the limbs and torso so that the warm underpaint shines through, giving depth to the form. The figure's face has a direct gaze and innocence that isn't prettified in the usual manner of the French school. While somewhat idealized, the girl feels nonetheless like an actual person rather than a painter's standard female 'type.' For the landscape elements, Matthei draws upon a sizable arsenal of techniques. A patchy, almost impressionistic application characterizes the sky and apple blossoms; the wall is built from a network of multidirectional strokes, with passages of flattened and bruised impasto used to simulate the wall's weathered quality. Both the grasses at the figure's feet and the shimmering highlights caught by fibers of the silken cloth draping the lower half of her torso are created with remarkably deft calligraphy.
Born in Marburg, Germany, Matthei trained at the Kassel Academy under Herman Knackfuss, a painter of battle scenes, and Louis Kolitz, a landscape and city view painter whose works have a distinctive pinkish-blond palette that Matthei seems to have emulated. While still a student, in 1881, Matthei lived with his Kassel Academy classmates Jean Conrad Bohlender and Heinrich Otto at the Willingshausen Painters' Colony, Germany's oldest artists' association which is still in existence. He worked there regularly until 1886 during the summer months, where he befriended painters Adolf Lins and Emil Zimmermann. In 1887 Matthei was working in Munich where he produced the present work as well as a genre scene of a burning village with a very similar palette (Collection Museumlandscaft Hessen Kassel, which owns 13 of Matthei's works). A trip to Italy in 1900 brought more intense light effects into his painting. The artist's works are relatively rare, particularly ambitious nudes of this quality.
Wax-lined canvas; there appears to be craquelure throughout with a few small flakes of loss, most notably in signature; under UV exam, there appears to be inpaiting but masking varnish makes this painting difficult to read. Framed Dimensions 44 X 29.5 Inches