1869 - 1954
Portrait of Mrs Dorothy Paley
Conté crayon with stumping
650 × 501 mm. (25 ⅝ × 19 ¾ in.)
Signed and dated lower right: "Henri Matisse / Sept 36"
Provenance:The artist's estate;
Waddington Galleries, London, acquired from the above;
Acquired by the present owner in March 1995.
Further information:This work is accompanied by a photo-certificate from Wanda de Guébriant.
This portrait of the New York socialite and later philanthropist Dorothy Paley (1908-1998), first wife of William S. Paley (1901-1990), is dated September 1936. Paley was an American businessman, collector, and founder of the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS). Having bought two of Henri Matisse's Nice period paintings, Odalisque with a Tambourine and Woman with a Veil, he commissioned the artist to paint a portrait of Dorothy . In September 1936, the couple visited the artist's studio in Paris. On that occasion, as was his practice, Matisse made at least eight charcoal drawings and an unknown number of pen and ink studies in preparation of the painting .
In our sheet, the figure's shoulders are suggested with swift lines while her collar is described with almost geometrical abbreviation. Multiple outlines define her neck and the oval of her face. Stronger marks are used for her eyebrows and eyes, and stumping is employed extensively to model and soften her features and hair, coiffed in soft curls. Her bright big eyes gaze gently sideways, over her left shoulder.
Two closely comparable charcoal studies are in the Musée Matisse, Le Cateau-Cambrésis,  and in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. Very similar to each other, they both show the sitter with her bust rotated in three-quarters view and her face frontally positioned. In both, great attention is placed on the eyes as the main focus of the portrait, with the figure's gaze almost completely obscured.
In his memoirs, William Paley recounts how the painting was never realized due to Matisse falling ill when he was about to begin working on it . Further meetings were scheduled for July 1937, with Matisse estimating that ten to twelve sittings would be required to complete the portrait . This arrangement was annulled by the Paleys' arriving two weeks late for their appointment. Being by that point busy with other commitments and annoyed by the delay, Matisse ultimately dropped the commission.
Mrs Dorothy Paley, neé Hart was the only child of Seth Hart, an insurance broker and Dorothy Jones Hart. Her first marriage (1927-1932) was to John Randolph Hearst, the third son of William Randolph Hearst. In 1931, she met William S. Paley. At the time she was a columnist for Harper's Bazaar. They married in 1932 in Kingman, Arizona. They separated in 1945 after Paley's return from wartime London and divorced in July 1947. In 1954, she married Walter Hirshon, a stockbroker. They divorced in 1961. Dorothy was celebrated for her beauty, elegance and sense of style. She was photographed by Cecil Beaton and Horst P. Horst, listed as one of the world's best-dressed women and featured in Vogue and Harper's Bazaar. Moreover, her curiosity, political engagement and taste in art greatly contributed to shaping William Paley's private life and public profile. It was with her encouragement that he started buying art and quickly developed a true passion for it. She introduced him to dealers and in a short time they began to accumulate a markedly personal collection of modern art, a rather unfashionable choice in the mid-1930s.
Paley left his collection of more than eighty works to the William S. Paley Foundation for donation to The Museum of Modern Art, where he was chairman emeritus at the time of his death in 1990 . Ranging in date from the latter half of the nineteenth century through the early 1970s, the collection includes paintings, sculpture, and drawings. It is especially rich in works by Matisse, Paul Cezanne, and Pablo Picasso, and features works by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Edgar Degas, André Derain, Pierre Bonnard, and Paul Gauguin, amongst others.
 Both paintings were part of William Paley's donation of his collection to the The Museum of Modern Art, New York.
 One of the pen and ink drawings is reproduced in H. Matisse, Portraits, Monte Carlo, 1954; seven of the charcoal drawings are in the collection of the Musée Matisse, Le Cateau-Cambrésis; D. Szymusiak, Musée Matisse: Dessins de la donation Matisse, Le Cateau-Cambrésis, Musée Matisse, 1988, pp. 74-76, illustrated; see J. Klein, Matisse Portraits, New Haven and London, 2001, pp. 190-91. In addition, Matisse portrayed Mrs Paley in a silkscreen print dedicated to her and dated September 1936.
 Inv. 63-2-36, inscribed, lower right, Henri Marisse /Sept 36, charcoal, 665 x 570 mm; Klein, op. cit., p. 191, fig. 143, illustrated.
 Inv. 2002.456.44, inscribed, lower right, Mrs Paley / H. Matisse / 13/IX 36, charcoal, 667 x 508 mm; S. Rewald with M. Dabrowski, The American Matisse, The Dealer, His Artists, His Collection. The Pierre and Maria-Gaetana Matisse Collection, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 2009, p. 108, illustrated.
 W. S. Paley, As it Happened: A Memoir, New York, 1979, p. 99; Klein, op. cit., p. 191.
 Klein, op. cit., p. 191.
 See The William S. Paley Collection: A Taste for Modernism, exhibition catalogue, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 2012.