At the age of 25, three years after she had come to work for them, Lydia Delectorskaya agreed to let the artist make her the subject of many of his paintings. Portrait of Lydia Delectorskaya by Henri Matisse is his later painting of Lydia, following on from the earlier Young Woman in a Blue Blouse, and captures the passage of time that has taken its toll on Mme Delectorskaya.
In his earlier works with Lydia as his muse, Matisse paints her as open faced, calm and serene, her blonde hair neatly styled, her lips rose red. Now in Portrait of Lydia Delectorskaya by Henri Matisse, the viewer can note straightaway the harsh line that runs down the centre of her face; one side blue, the other yellow. Whilst Young Woman in a Blue Blouse depicts a female subject with a sense of reality, Portrait of Lydia Delectorskaya by Henri Matisse completely gives itself over to the Expressionist movement, depicting a woman who is both tangibly real with recognisable features, yet also mysterious and otherworldly, with the odd clashing colours of her face and hair.
Many critics have wondered if the two sides of her face are painted in opposite colours in order to depict the struggle of human nature. The yellow side is positive and sunlit, the blue side dark and depressive. The clever combination of both the blue and yellow of course is why her hair is green, showing that both sides of the soul are integral to the human experience, as one cannot exist without the other.
Portrait of Lydia Delectorskaya by Henri Matisse is deceptively simplistic, with each colour choice and line of her face telling the story of her past and the important role she played in the life of the artist. Indeed, despite their not having a sexual affair, his wife still viewed Lydia as allowing Matisse to artistically cheat on her by creating Delectorskaya as his muse. Indeed, Lydia stayed with Matisse even up until his death, forming the final subject matter of Matisse's last work. Portrait of Lydia Delectorskaya by Henri Matisse can currently be seen on display in the State Hermitage Museum, Russia.