For our 1992 retrospective of Matisse, I'd traveled from Japan to Australia to Mexico to the Soviet Union and could not find this painting. So this summer, when the call came, I said, 'How could it be?
[Meanwhile, the Modern is planning to mount an exhibition of the gift in the summer of 2006.] We wanted to do it A.S.A.P., ... but it takes time to unload the boat and to absorb big gifts into our collection.
[Matisse's aim in leaving the face blank was] to encourage you to look all over the surface of the painting, ... He realized we are biologically constructed to focus on faces more than anything. So he came to the conclusion that the way to make the eyes circulate freely in the space was not to paint the face.