This work was created in the closing months of 1939 – the year when World War 2 broke out – after France had declared war on Germany. The woman is robed in a costume comprising the three colors of the French flag, representing liberty, equality and fraternity. The artist invests this resolute female image with his pride in the culture and art of his homeland, which is facing crisis.
This work features motifs that were familiar ones with Matisse – an open window, a woman reading in a chair, a still life on a table, and others – laid out in a red interior. Here Matisse distinguishes the floor and walls merely by different patterns, without painting them in different colors. It is a work from the painter’s final years, when he sought after an aesthetic unique to canvas as a two-dimensional planar medium.