Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs

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Henri Matisse. Maquette for Nuit de Noël. 1952 689

Gouache on paper, cut-and-pasted on board, 107 x 53 1/2" (271.8 x 135.9cm). Gift of Time Inc. © 2024 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Director, Glenn Lowry: Here we have a chance to examine this maquette made in cut paper to create a stained-glass window. Matisse was commissioned by the Time Life Company to create this composition. It’s called Nuit de Noël or Christmas Eve. Look closely at the paper stars that dominate the scene.

Curator, Jodi Hauptman: There are forms that appear as if Matisse could have cut out from a single sheet but instead he builds it up from small bits. This is an artist who's very good at cutting; but instead of cutting a five-pointed star just out of a single sheet, he always builds a star out of five triangles. And so that's been an ongoing question: Why does he do that? Is he trying to model it the way he would model sculpture, or even using paint? You know, what's the reason for that?

Glenn Lowry: On December 4, 1952, Matisse wrote to Alfred Barr, the founding Director of The Museum of Modern Art:

Henri Matisse (read by an actor): The stained-glass window has finally left for New York. It will be exhibited during the Christmas holiday at Rockefeller Center. If you have a chance to see it, you will agree with me that a maquette for a stained-glass window and the window itself are like a musical score and its performance by an orchestra.

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