London – In 1941 Henri Matisse (1869-1954) was recovering from a long illness at Hôtel Regina in Nice. Confined to his bed, the artist was unable to paint in front of an easel. Matisse however, found a solution. Resting a drawing board against a rolling table attached to his bed, Matisse continued to work – with drawing becoming his primary means of artistic expression for the next two years. A drawing by Henri Matisse from this period, Femme couchée de la serie ‘Thèmes et variations’, D4, is one of the highlights of Bonhams’ Impressionist & Modern Art sale on Thursday 7 April in New Bond Street, London. he work on paper has an estimate of £180,000 – 250,000.

Hannah Noel-Smith, Head of UK & Europe Impressionist & Modern Art, commented: “In Femme couchée de la serie ‘Thèmes et variations’, D4, Matisse allows the ink lines to vary in thickness and pressure, revelling in the differing rhythms his hand produces, creating heavier strokes under the model’s hair and emphasising the bold ‘S’ which denotes the sweep of her resting hand. There is a deceptive effortlessness to the composition, but Matisse’s love of balance is evident. This reduction of form and composition to its essentials laid the groundwork for his famous cut-outs, a technique he developed during the last years of the Second World War. The Thèmes et Variations project undoubtedly paved the way for the artist to free himself forever from the easel. That the series was pivotal to Matisse’s oeuvre is recognised both by art historians and the artist himself, who donated several sequences to major museums and loyal patrons.”

From late 1941 to early 1942 Henri Matisse focused almost exclusively on a series of charcoal, ink and pencil drawings which would go on to form the portfolio Dessins: Thèmes et Variations, printed in 1943. Executing 158 drawings within this time frame, Matisse would start with a charcoal drawing (his ‘theme’) and then explore related variations. Seventeen themes were chosen, lettered A-P, with each then inspiring between three and nineteen variations. Using both his companion Lydia Delectorskaya and his nurse, Monique Bourgeois, as models, eleven of the themes were focused on female portraits, while the remaining six were still-life compositions.

Other highlights of the sale include:

• Maternité by Léonard Tsuguharu Foujita (1886-1968), Executed circa 1957. Estimate: £180,000 – 250,000.

• Two works on paper by Egon Schiele (1890-1918) Liegendes kind (Executed in 1910), estimate: £50,000 – 70,000, and Porträt einer Dame (Executed in 1908), estimate: £40,000 – 60,000.

• Edvard Munch (1863-1944)Figurer ved Seinen i Saint-Cloud (Executed in 1890). Estimate: £80,000 – 120,000.

• Joan Miró (1893-1983)Tête et oiseau, 137.2cm (54in). high (Conceived by 1975, this bronze version cast by the Fundició Parellada in 1981 in an edition of 9 numbered 0, 1/6-6/6, plus two nominative casts.). Estimate: £300,000 – 500,000.

• Louis Anquetin (1861-1932)Elégantes, scène de rue (Executed in 1888). Estimate: £100,000 – 150,000.