Materials and Process

Henri Matisse. The Swimming Pool, Maquette for ceramic (realized 1999 and 2005). Nice-Cimiez, Hôtel Régina, late summer 1952 400

Gouache on paper, cut and pasted, on painted paper, Overall 73" x 53' 11" (185.4 x 1643.3 cm). Installed as nine panels in two parts on burlap-covered walls 11' 4" (345.4 cm) high. Frieze installed at a height of 5' 5" (165 cm). Mrs. Bernard F. Gimbel Fund. Conservation was made possible by the Bank of America Art Conservation Project. © 2019 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Curator, Jodi Hauptman: The story about the making of the pool is that Matisse and Lydia, his assistant, go to a pool. And they get there and it's boiling hot. And Matisse says, "I'm going to die here. We have to go home." And so he goes home and he says, "I'm going to make my own pool." And so he asks Lydia to line his dining room with white paper hanging at a height of approximately just above his head.

And then he begins to cut the forms and make this pool. And the work, as you experience it, there's this question about where you are. Are you under the water? Are you above the water? Are you in the water with the swimmers? So your position is oscillating. There's an oscillation between positive and negative, between human and animal because some of the figures look like human swimmers but they kind of look like fish also. There's the contrast between blue and white. So there's all these tensions that you're surrounded by. And there's this sense of the swimmers moving around you.

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