Henri Matisse and Simon Bussy (1869/70--1954) were lifelong friends from the time they met as students at the Ecole des Beaux Arts. Since the early years of the twentieth century, Bussy, a painter of portraits and landscapes, divided his time between London and the South of France, socializing not only with former classmates Matisse and Georges Rouault (1871--1958), but also members of the Bloomsbury group and French writers Andre Gide and Paul Valery. In this drawing, Bussy appears as Matisse’s alter ego. A 1945 self-portrait drawing by Matisse in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York is almost indistinguishable. Bussy’s slightly broader face and prominent chin and Matisse’s goatee differentiate the two, who seem to be examining the world from behind their spectacles with an equal dose of skepticism. The Bussy portrait seems to be drawn effortlessly, with great respect for the sitter, and foregoes the deliberate distortions Matisse applied to his own face.
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