Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs

October 12, 2014–February 10, 2015


The Joan and Preston Robert Tisch Exhibition Gallery, sixth floor

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Read more about Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs at INSIDE/OUT, a MoMA/MoMA PS1 blog.

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In the late 1940s, Henri Matisse turned almost exclusively to cut paper as his primary medium, and scissors as his chief implement, introducing a radically new operation that came to be called a cut-out. Matisse would cut painted sheets into forms of varying shapes and sizes—from the vegetal to the abstract—which he then arranged into lively compositions, striking for their play with color and contrast, their exploitation of decorative strategies, and their economy of means. Initially, these compositions were of modest size but, over time, their scale grew along with Matisse’s ambitions for them, expanding into mural or room-size works. A brilliant final chapter in Matisse’s long career, the cut-outs reflect both a renewed commitment to form and color and an inventiveness directed to the status of the work of art, whether as a unique object, environment, ornament, or a hybrid of all of these.

Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs is a groundbreaking reassessment of this important body of work. The largest and most extensive presentation of the cut-outs ever mounted, the exhibition includes approximately 100 cut-outs—borrowed from public and private collections around the globe—along with a selection of related drawings, prints, illustrated books, stained glass, and textiles. The last time New York audiences were treated to an in-depth look at the cut-outs was in 1961.

This exhibition was sparked by an initiative to conserve The Museum of Modern Art’s monumental cut-out The Swimming Pool (1952), a favorite of visitors since its acquisition by MoMA in 1975. The Swimming Pool is the only cut-out composed for a specific room—the artist’s dining room in his apartment in Nice, France. The goals of the multiyear conservation effort have been to bring this magical environment back to its original color balance, height, and spatial configuration. Newly conserved, The Swimming Pool—off view for more than 20 years—returns to MoMA’s galleries as a centerpiece of the exhibition.

With research on two fronts—conservation and curatorial—this exhibition offers a reconsideration of the cut-outs by exploring a host of technical and conceptual issues: the artist’s methods and materials and the role and function of the works in his practice; their environmental aspects; their sculptural and temporal presence as their painted surfaces exhibited texture and materiality, curled off the walls, and shifted in position over time; and their double lives, first as contingent and mutable in the studio and, ultimately, as permanent, a transformation accomplished via mounting and framing. The exhibition also mines the tensions that lurk in all the cut-outs, between finish and process, fine art and decoration, drawing and color.

The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue and a children’s book.

Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs is organized by The Museum of Modern Art in collaboration with Tate Modern, London.

Organized at MoMA by Karl Buchberg, Senior Conservator, and Jodi Hauptman, Senior Curator, with Samantha Friedman, Assistant Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints.

Bank of America

Bank of America is the Global Sponsor of Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs.

Major support for the MoMA presentation is provided by The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, and Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis.

Additional funding is provided by Dian Woodner, The Junior Associates of The Museum of Modern Art, and the MoMA Annual Exhibition Fund.

Park Hyatt New York is the hotel sponsor of Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs.

Media sponsorship is provided by theguardian.com.

This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954). <i>Nuit de Noël</i>. 1952. Maquette for stained-glass window. Gouache on paper, cut and pasted, mounted on board, 10’ 7″ x 53 1/2″ (322.8 x 135.9 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Time Inc. © 2014 Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954). Nuit de Noël. 1952. Maquette for stained-glass window. Gouache on paper, cut and pasted, mounted on board, 10’ 7″ x 53 1/2″ (322.8 x 135.9 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Time Inc. © 2014 Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

MoMA Studio: Beyond the Cut-Out


Organized in conjunction with the exhibition, MoMA Studio: Beyond the Cut-Out is a creative and social space that takes the cut-out as a starting point from which to consider Matisse’s lasting influence on contemporary art. Through a variety of artist-led workshops, art-making projects, and participatory experiences, visitors of all ages have the opportunity to explore how this innovative technique emerges across different mediums and relates to themes including the boundary between abstraction and figuration, the decorative, and the evolving nature of an artwork. The space has been conceived in collaboration with artists Carlos Amorales, Arturo Herrera, Elaine Reichek, and others.

Related Classes


Classes, artist-led immersions, and experiences can help you develop new perspectives and become a part of a community of learners unlike any other.

Matisse’s Cut-Outs, Part I: From the Studio to the Environment
11:00 a.m.–12:50 p.m., 10/07, 10/14, 10/21, 10/28

Matisse’s Cut-Outs, Part II: Collage and Process
11:00 a.m.–12:50 p.m., 11/04, 11/11, 11/18, 12/02 (No Class 11/25)

Henri Matisse: The Fertile Environment of the Artist’s Studio
8:00–9:50 p.m., 09/30, 10/07, 10/14, 10/28 (No Class 10/21)

Matisse and the Art of Making: The Cut-Out, Collage, and All That Jazz
8:00–9:50 p.m., 11/04, 11/11, 11/18, 12/02

MoMA Courses Online


Mad for Matisse? Dive into MoMA Courses Online to discover more about his life and art, and create your own collage and cut-out masterpieces. Instructor-Led Courses open on October 1, 2014, or enroll in our Self-Guided Courses and learn at your own pace.

Modern Art: 1880–1945
Get the background on what Matisse was creating before his landmark cut-outs, and the historical context for the immeasurable impact he's made on generations of artists since then.

Experimenting with Collage
Try Matisse's "drawing with scissors" technique and explore seven other artists' approaches to collage making, including Pablo Picasso, Joseph Cornell, and Robert Rauschenberg.