Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs

*Blue Nude II*

Henri Matisse. Blue Nude II. 1952

Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954). *Blue Nude II (Nu bleu II).* Spring 1952. Gouache on paper, cut and pasted, on white paper, mounted on canvas. 45 3/4 × 35″ (116.2 × 88.9 cm). Musée national d’art moderne/Centre de création industrielle, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. Purchase, 1984. © 2014 Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

GLENN LOWRY: The female form was an important subject for Matisse throughout his career. Here he shapes the body out of color, delineating a woman’s figure with the sweep of his scissors.

JODI HAUPTMAN: It gets to the essence of what's been a challenge his whole life. And that is how do you unite color and drawing.

GLENN LOWRY: Matisse’s cut-outs often appear effortless. But the work was arduous, and sometimes he struggled. This was especially true when he began creating the Blue Nudes. Jodi Hauptman:

JODI HAUPTMAN: His assistants describe pinning and unpinning and repinning and pinning again and cutting the bits of paper and building the figure out of bits and just not getting it right… for weeks and weeks.

GLENN LOWRY: In frustration, Matisse stopped cutting and turned to drawing. He sketched a seated female nude over and over – some of that work can be seen in this room.

JODI HAUPTMAN: So he learns something from the drawing, and then he goes back to cutting. 00:52:38 [H]e learns that by cutting into the paper and shifting the two sides apart, you get a kind of trough or gully that will help describe the form. And so when you look at the works, you can imagine …the paper …going back together because it's cut essentially from a single sheet.

GLENN LOWRY: To hear more about the role of drawing in Matisse’s cut-outs, enter 6-9-0-1 in the keypad.

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