The beige walls of his apartment in Montparnasse remind him of the color of the beaches in Tahiti. He cuts in a white paper the stylized forms that his assistant Lydia pins on the wall. His aim is to create two tapestry cartoons forming pendants, Océanie - le ciel and Océanie - la mer, respectively populated with birds and fish.
In 1946 while Matisse was busy on this project Zika Ascher came to visit Paris. A fashion designer based since 1942 in London, Ascher usually works with Henry Moore. He now wants to edit a series of scarves prepared by a plurality of artists. Almost all of them including Matisse respond favorably.
Ascher also convinces Matisse to print his Océanie. Matisse is very demanding but Ascher manages to find a linen cloth and a pigment that exactly replicate the texture and sand color of the wall. The artist's attention to the sand anticipates by two decades Agnes Martin's escape in the desert.
Both artworks were edited in 1946-1947 in thirty copies each in an image format around 163 x 373 cm.
The Fondation Beyeler owns the pair 4/30. The number 26/30 of La Mer was sold by Christie's for £ 2.95M including premium on June 21, 2011 over a lower estimate of £ 500K. It was then coming directly from the Beyeler estate after having belonged to the Matisse family.
On April 26 in New York, Sotheby's sells the copy 20/30 of La Mer, lot 15 estimated $ 500K. Its provenance is also interesting : it had belonged to Ascher and was on loan to the MoMA from 1950 to 1953. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
SOLD for $ 1.22M including premium