Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs

Materials and Process

Henri Matisse. Materials and Process 686

Matisse in front of gouache-painted papers, Hôtel Régina, Nice. Photo: Lydia Delectorskaya. © 2014 Succession H. Matisse

GLENN LOWRY: The papers in this case show the range and intensity of Matisse’s color palette. Conservator Karl Buchberg:

KARL BUCHBERG: Matisse was incredibly aware and exacting about the color. But in fact, there were many, many, many different variations with each color. There were, we know, at least 17 different oranges involved, so that when one looks at the work of art, the combinations are much more complex than would first meet the eye.

GLENN LOWRY:  Studio assistants would paint the paper in advance. One of them was Jacqueline Duhême:

JACQUELINE DUHEME (IN FRENCH, with VO): We would use this kind of brush in large sweeping movements to get a good tint. Then, we had to see if he liked it. With blue for instance, sometimes he would add a hint of garnet or a dark red to get a specific kind of blue. The hard work would then be to calculate the right quantity. We would usually obtain a different color first and he would exclaim [hits on the table]: ‘No, I want this color!’ He was harsh. But he was right!

GLENN LOWRY: While Duheme mixed colors, other assistants recount using colors straight from the tube. Once the painted paper was dry, Matisse would cut, and his assistants would pin. Often they balanced on ladders with pins in their hands and hammers around their necks.

JACQUELINE DUHEME: He would use a fishing rod to work on the walls. He would say ‘Put a red one, a purple one’ I would and then he would say ‘No, that doesn’t work: a little more to the right or to the left. Let’s change the colour, etc’.

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