Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs


Henri Matisse. Jazz. 1943 682

Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954). The Clown (Le Clown). 1943. Maquette for plate I from the illustrated book Jazz (1947). Gouache on paper, cut and pasted, mounted on canvas. 26 7/16 × 19 15/16″ (67.2 × 50.7 cm). Musée national d’art moderne/Centre de création industrielle, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. Dation, 1985. © 2014 Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

GLENN LOWRY: This room is devoted to a book Matisse made called Jazz. On the wall you’ll find the pieced-together maquettes, or designs, that Matisse made for each page of the book. Curator Samantha Friedman:

SAMANTHA FRIEDMAN: He doesn't know what he's making yet …he's cutting these colored papers. He's making these arrangements. And it's for an illustrated book … but he's actually improvising what will become a new medium.

GLENN LOWRY: As you can see, he was using imagery from the circus and popular folk tales. Look for the maquette with a black figure and yellow stars on a blue background.

SAMANTHA FRIEDMAN: It refers to the Greek myth of Icarus, who flew too close to the sun and fell from the sky. And here Matisse is sort of playing with this idea of flying. And he, himself, has talked about the idea of cutting as feeling like flying. …so in a way, he's inscribing his own process, … as he's …. gliding his scissors through the paper, it feels like flying.

GLENN LOWRY: In the case, you can see the final result of this process – the printed book. Matisse initially thought it was a failure—he felt the pages lacked the depth and texture of the maquettes.

SAMANTHA FRIEDMAN: And so it's … through this thinking process …. that Matisse realizes there's a liveliness to the paper itself that he can explore as a medium independently…And it's really through Jazz that he establishes this new medium for the first time.

GLENN LOWRY: There’s also a darker aspect to the images of Jazz. To hear about it, enter 6-8-2-1 on the keypad.

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