Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs

*Composition, Black and Red (Composition, noir et rouge)*

Henri Matisse. Composition, Black and Red (Composition, noir et rouge). 1947 685

Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954). Composition, Black and Red (Composition, noir et rouge). 1947. Gouache on paper, cut and pasted. 16 × 20 3/4″ (40.6 × 52.7 cm). Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA. Gift of Professor and Mrs. John McAndrew. © 2014 Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

GLENN LOWRY: This composition reveals Matisse’s keen interest in how cutting paper creates positive and negative forms. Conservator Karl Buchberg and Curator Jodi Hauptman tell us more:

KARL BUCHBERG: The cutout process by its very nature creates a positive and a negative. As he was cutting a shape, a piece would stay in his hand, and another piece, the surround, would fall into his lap or would fall to the floor. In this work you see that he is using both the positive and the negative. On the left-hand side with the black background, you see two green shapes. One to the top is the surround, and one towards the bottom is what you might call the positive.

JODI HAUPTMAN: In a way, he's revealing his ideas about cutting because he's showing you that you might cut a form; but what's left outside it is just as interesting a compositional element as the original form that you're cutting. A great game is to go from work to work and see how the bits of paper actually fit into each other and how similar shapes or mirrored shapes function in different ways.

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