Collection 1950s–1970s


Henri Matisse’s The Swimming Pool



Henri Matisse. The Swimming Pool, Maquette for ceramic (realized 1999 and 2005). 1952. Gouache on paper, cut and pasted, on painted paper, overall 73" × 53' 11" (185.4 × 1643.3 cm). Installed as nine panels in two parts on burlap-covered walls 11' 4" (345.4 cm) high. Frieze installed at a height of 5' 5" (165 cm). Mrs. Bernard F. Gimbel Fund. © 2019 Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
  • MoMA, Floor 4, 406 The David Geffen Galleries

Open daily from 1:00 p.m. in order to preserve this light-sensitive work on paper.

One summer morning in 1952, Matisse told his studio assistant and secretary Lydia Delectorskaya that “he wanted to see divers,” so they went to a favorite pool in Cannes. Suffering under the blazing sun, they returned home, and Matisse declared, “I will make myself my own pool.” He asked Delectorskaya to ring the walls of his dining room at the Hôtel Régina in Nice with a white paper band just above the level of his head, breaking only at window and doors at opposite ends of the room. Matisse cut divers, swimmers, and sea creatures out of paper painted ultramarine blue and pinned them onto the white paper.

The result was Matisse’s first and only self-contained, site-specific cut-out. Matisse saw in paper’s pliability an ideal match for the fluidity of water, making the piece a perfect synthesis of subject and means. With its simplification of forms, dynamic use of positives and negatives, and expansion across the walls, The Swimming Pool was the culmination of Matisse’s cut-paper work up to that point.

Organized by Jodi Hauptman, Senior Curator, with Danielle Johnson, former Curatorial Assistant, and Jane Cavalier, former Curatorial Assistant, Department of Drawings and Prints.

2 works online


Installation images

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