Left: Repos du modele (grande odalisque)
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2 Pleasuring Painting: Matisse's Feminine Representations by John Elderfield (Thames & Hudson pounds 8.95), the 1995 Walter Neurath lecture, treads boldly through the minefield of gender-laden interpretations of those seductive and mysterious images, Matisse's odalisques. Elderfield tries to forge a path between the formalist and the feminist views - both of which, he concedes, have their strengths; neither of which, he claims, tell the whole story. In Matisse's portrayal of his models and of his daughter Marguerite, Elderfield notes how the "stroboscopic dazzle" of his backgrounds "will not allow us to look on the female body" - a curious disavowal of sexuality just when he, and we, might most revel in it. JD