Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs

Henri Matisse. Maquette for Nuit de Noël. 1952 689

Gouache on paper, cut-and-pasted, mounted on board, 107 x 53 1/2" (271.8 x 135.9cm). Gift of Time Inc. © 2019 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

GLENN LOWRY: Here we have a chance to examine both a maquette made in cut paper, and the secondary product, a stained glass window. Matisse was commissioned by the Time Life Company to create this composition. It’s called Nuit de NoëlChristmas Eve. Look closely at the paper stars that dominate the scene.

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-what's the reason for that?

GLENN LOWRY: On December 4th, 1952, Matisse wrote to Alfred Barr, the founding Director of the Museum of Modern Art:

MATISSE VOICE: 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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