Inspired by a Visit to Matisse

Shadow lady,
from wherever-you-prefer
cash-only for hire,
she an artist’s muse.
pose her as you will.
Her rule, never touch,
sparks a masterful brush.

Face concealed,
enveloped in a penumbra of voile
anonymity always required.
Pastels, oil, charcoal, or clay
shades of black, white or grey.
Bright hues perhaps?
Your choice.
Clothing optional, save the veil.

Perched upon a chair,
garters hold stockings taut
bare breasts paint themselves.
Curses fall upon that masked face,
as she survives within the pale.

Fee collected, she hurries home.
Scarf thrown upon the chair
no mirrors with which to see
that face so hidden then,
now sipping cup of tea.

Years later,
accompanied by her spouse
she visits galleries,
genteel pastime of the upper class.

Smiling ever so slightly
she spies her former self,
framed in golden gilt
hanging upon the wall.

She, an artists’ muse,
their anonymous visage.
Paid a pittance then
worth a fortune now.


Written for today’s Poetics at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets. I’m delighted to be hosting so step right up to the bar. The prompt word for today is “shade.”  Use the word itself or any derivation of the word in the body of your poem. My poem today is inspired by a recent visit to Boston’s MFA to see the Matisse Studio exhibit. I was enamored with this painting, Seated Figure with Violet Stockings, oil on canvas, painted by Matisse in 1914. My imagination took a leap from the painting to this musing. Pub opens at 3 PM Boston time. Come join us in the shade!

50 thoughts on “Inspired by a Visit to Matisse

  1. Grace August 8, 2017 / 2:39 pm

    I love the story of the muse Lillian. Specially admire the shades and mystery with:

    Face concealed,
    enveloped in a penumbra of voile

    Thanks for hosting our Poetics!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian August 8, 2017 / 3:13 pm

      Always enjoy tending the pub. Guess I gave it away in my prompt…I discovered and fell in love with the word “penumbra!” 🙂


  2. Jane Dougherty August 8, 2017 / 3:09 pm

    Artist’s models were paid in babies in those days 🙂 I love the shoes, more seventeenth century than Matisse.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian August 8, 2017 / 3:15 pm

      hmmmm….paid in babies? The Matisse exchibit was extraordinary and for whatever reason, this particular painting struck me. I took the photo….figuring I would sometimes write from it. And this is what happened….wierd how words just flow from the pen and then you look down and say, “Whoa, where did this come from?” 🙂 Yes – I was struck by the shoes as well — looked kind of pilgrimish to me!


      • lillian August 8, 2017 / 4:04 pm

        Ha! Not shady Sadie here. Her “no touch rule” saved her goose 🙂


  3. Victoria C. Slotto August 8, 2017 / 3:11 pm

    Matisse and his muses–what a great subject for an ekphrasis, Lillian. Liking this phrase:
    penumbra of voile
    anonymity always required.
    that adds such mystery. Don’t suppose her spouse recognized her.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian August 8, 2017 / 3:18 pm

      Okay — learned a new word here! (in addition to “penumbra”) Ekphrasis — creating the narrative or writing from a painting. I always learn something new at dVerse 🙂
      Glad you enjoyed. No — by the time she is with her spouse here, I am imagining her as a much more elegant and self-constrained individual. Which was more her I wonder? I did have fun creating this totally fictional narrative of a woman who is paid for being the artistic muse. This one refuses to show her face…and seems to contain her dignity within her rule of paint, draw, mold, but never touch 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Victoria C. Slotto August 8, 2017 / 4:11 pm

        I think that most of his models were also his mistresses. There was one especially who was a long-time mistress but I can’t say I remember the details. What a job!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. katiemiafrederick August 8, 2017 / 3:24 pm

    WHen SHade beCoMeS
    mUse aLL tHaT’S
    oF hELL
    iS EL..LiGHT
    YeS.. SMiLeS
    eVeN iN HeLL
    AS HeaVeN SHiNes
    AnD trUe tHeRE iS
    No hUmaN aRT
    aBoVe thE
    FoR tHosE
    wHo FeeL anD
    SenSe liFE MoRE..
    OuT oF Words aS eMptY
    sHeLLs iN dARK
    CloTHeD oR
    Not DeSiRinG LiFE
    MusE BUrNs BRiGhT NaKeD
    FreeDconStraining RuLes CulTuRe LoReS..:)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. kanzensakura August 8, 2017 / 4:10 pm

    Actually her shoes are right on the mark. My grandmother has a pic of her when she was a young thing in shoes just like this. No red hose though. I love this visit to Matisse and the penumbra of voile….

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian August 8, 2017 / 4:27 pm

      Smiling I am. Glad you enjoyed 🙂


  6. Bev August 8, 2017 / 4:13 pm

    What a wonderful journey from painting to words, Lillian. Thank you for taking us along!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian August 8, 2017 / 4:28 pm

      It was fun to imagine the woman in front of the easel 🙂


  7. alisonhankinson August 8, 2017 / 4:59 pm

    I think she would have been happy at her former exploits….especially as time marched on…

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Waltermarks August 8, 2017 / 5:27 pm

    You have woven a fascinating story behind the veil. Who was she? Probably did not get paid much to pose. I like the ending and her wry smile

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian August 8, 2017 / 5:37 pm

      The mysterious woman behind the veil. How many artists did she pose for? Is she in other paintings as well as this Matisse? Others in the same time frame? Did some create her face, imagined as they would? Different from Matisse who simply used a smudged anonymous oval in its place. Who knows how many others she collected coins from and later redeemed that canvas into wealth for them.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Waltermarks August 8, 2017 / 6:46 pm

        Very good Lillian. I never even considered that


  9. Adda August 8, 2017 / 6:03 pm

    How interesting. The story is wonderful with a twist at the end. Wonderfully done! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian August 8, 2017 / 6:11 pm

      Glad you enjoyed. I was enamored with this painting when I saw it at the exhibit. Snapped a photo and figured it would “come alive” in my blog some day. Fun to imagine this woman who sat for him….totally fictional but interesting to imagine. 🙂


    • lillian August 9, 2017 / 8:24 am

      Ah, do doubt, Matisse was a master of light and shadows. I find it absolutely incredible when looking at art work, that someone can take a brush and mix paints and come up with something incredible like this….or Monets….etc. Much more than talent — divine inspiration from hand to canvas perhaps?


  10. jaybluepoems August 8, 2017 / 7:23 pm

    What a beautiful visualization of history that is likely more true than we know. Nice, nice!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian August 9, 2017 / 8:23 am

      hmmmm it’s fun to think there could be “shades” of truth in the tale! 🙂
      Glad you enjoyed, Jay.


  11. Charley August 8, 2017 / 7:31 pm

    I love ekphrastic poetry! You painted with words above what I consider the artist did with paints.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian August 9, 2017 / 8:22 am

      Ah, thank you much, Charley. Glad you enjoyed! And I enjoy making up the stories that could possibly surround the art work also…just never knew it was called “ekphrastic poetry!” 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Charley August 9, 2017 / 9:47 am

        My joy is learning new things. Glad I could share that.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. jillys2016 August 8, 2017 / 7:59 pm

    A visit to the art museum is inspiring for me, as well. I love what you did with this poem, painting a picture of your own and then giving the narrative a twist and twirl at the end; so clever and amusing to imagine! The ‘never touch’ rule is intriguing – never touch the physical, but what of the heart? The thing that most catches my eye in the painting is the shoes… Lovely work and thanks for hosting tonight!

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian August 9, 2017 / 8:21 am

      Yes….I found that the shoes drew my eye also. But what I found most intriguing was the nonidentifiable face…and that’s where the story line grew 🙂 Glad you enjoyed!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Frank Hubeny August 8, 2017 / 9:41 pm

    Interesting story of a model finding herself in a painting in a museum. At least one of those paintings was successful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian August 9, 2017 / 8:20 am

      Ah yes….and who knows? Maybe she appears in many of the finest galleries, her form the motivation of many! Wouldn’t that be a lovely tale if it were true? 🙂 Glad you enjoyed, Frank.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. lily August 8, 2017 / 11:47 pm

    Standing O, my dear. Such an impressive piece.

    I’m especially enamored of this line: “bare breasts paint themselves.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • lillian August 9, 2017 / 8:19 am

      Thank you, Lily….compatriot of names! From lillian to lily…have a wonderful Wednesday! 🙂


  15. kim881 August 9, 2017 / 2:18 am

    Oh those artists and their muses! It would be interesting to see if female artists have shadow gentlemen! I am a fan of ekphrastic poems (as you probably realised!) and this is a beauty, explores the woman behind the painting. I live the lines:
    ‘Her rule, never touch,
    sparks a masterful brush’;
    ‘enveloped in a penumbra of voile
    anonymity always required’;
    ‘garters hold stockings taut
    bare breasts paint themselves’.
    And you included ‘penumbra’ and ‘pale’!


    • lillian August 9, 2017 / 8:18 am

      Thanks, Kim. As I’d mentioned before, had to look up the meaning of “ekphrastic” so, as always, I’m learning every day with dVerse! Glad you enjoyed this one. I really was drawn “into” this painting and the poem just flowed the other day. Well, I did do a lot of editing…but the idea of who she was just sort of kept growing. I did not research on Matisse…so did not know about his mistresses. But, as the poem indicates with the “never touch” rule, I like to think this young woman was down and out on her luck, needed money, and so “rented” herself out for artists in terms of posing for their paintings, sculpting etc, clothes or no clothes, but always anonymously with her face covered to always maintain her self-respect and dignity in her own way. And then….she must have saved her money, changed her circumstances because years later she is among the genteel…and imagine her sly smiling as she visits galleries and sees herself in various mediums. Wouldn’t it be interesting if this was true? 🙂 Artists could have concocted their own faces for their words, inspired by her form. Maybe it could be a movie! I should get Glenn on it 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • kim881 August 9, 2017 / 2:09 pm

        I agree that the subjects of paintings are often as interesting than the artists. I love, for example, Klimt’s women, and now I want to find out more about Matisse’s!

        Liked by 1 person

  16. lillian August 9, 2017 / 8:08 pm

    I wrote a response on your blog, Mother Wintermoon. I hope others will click on your pingback and read your post. It is the depths of despair and depression that exist within the pale, within the shade. Such a visceral poem…

    Liked by 1 person

    • mother wintermoon August 10, 2017 / 12:25 am

      It means the world to me to be seen and heard so clearly. I am deeply moved. Thank you so much. (((Hugs)))

      Liked by 1 person

  17. emangarduque August 10, 2017 / 12:21 am

    very intriguing — the personas behind the shade of paint.


  18. mother wintermoon August 10, 2017 / 12:29 am

    Beautiful! And I learned a new word. Love your thought provoking subject matter.


  19. sreeja Harikrishnan August 11, 2017 / 12:27 am

    loved how you went deep into a story….some lives are so different and intriguing…beautiful!!


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