Female Nude Seated on the Ground
(Le Cateau-Cambrésis, 1869 - 1954, Nice)
Pencil on cream paper
Isabella's Back Bay neighbor and rival for the title of leading art patroness in Boston, Sarah Sears had her eye on Matisse as a "comer." Sears was an accomplished watercolorist who had taken up photography in the early 1890s and been accepted into Alfred Stieglitz's Photo-Secession. After the death of her husband in 1905, she spent an extended period in Paris where she amassed cutting-edge works by Manet, Cezanne, Degas, and her friend Mary Cassatt, and met Matisse through the Steins (Leo, Gertrude, Sarah, and Michael). Whether she acquired this drawing of a reclining nude that she gave to Isabella from the artist, from his Parisian dealers, or from the shows that Stieglitz mounted in 1908 and 1910 cannot be determined. In any event, this modest study evinced the radical rupture with classical ideals of female beauty that shocked early viewers of Matisse's work and undoubtedly appealed to Gardner's self-image as an opponent of prudishness and hypocritical morality. Isabella loaned this drawing to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston for exhibition in late January 1911.