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You've seen this image a hundred times. Oh, yes, you have. It's the world's most famous, most visited, most recognised painting: Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, except in this instance her nibs has popped out for a few minutes. This is but one of a teasingly entertaining series of classic paintings by American artist Sophie Matisse where the figure has been removed. It's a playful missing- person series. Vermeer's maid has run down to the shops; Hopper's nighthawks have hit the sack; Mona Lisa has gone to the loo.

It's a clever and intriguing idea: it has that 'now-you-see- it, now-you-don't factor', but it also makes us think about presence and absence, time and place, being here and nowhere and then we disappear...

Da Vinci painted the Mona Lisa in the first decade of the 16th century; Sophie Matisse responded in the closing decade of the 20th.

And what we have is background only, physically impossible and lopsided as in the original masterpiece. It's an imaginary, eerie, fairytale place – the river on the left does not square with the landscape on the right, but the ornamental balustrade gets a big look in, now that Ms Enigma has been removed. There's a striking contrast between the hard edge, cut marble and the receding landscape that gradually fades away into the distance, a startling and innovative technique in the early 16th century. And yet you'd pass this by were it not for the Da Vinci connection.

And, yes the Matisse is that Matisse. Henri was her great grandfather, she's step-grandchild of Marcel Duchamp and her father, Paul, is a sculptor. Born in Boston and "drawing since I was tiny", she was educated in the US and Paris, but her dyslexia meant that regular school didn't suit. "The visual was the way forward. Dyslexia was a positive. If I put something upside down, if I put the opposite colour, nobody would know!"

When her Tunisian husband introduced her to Arabic calligraphy, which sometimes features in her work, it suited her. Because it goes backwards. Though she herself is forging ahead.

www.sophiematisse.net

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