Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs by Henri Matisse
With their economy of means and chromatic geometries, Matisse’s cut-outs are the apex of his "construction by means of colour"
Published in conjunction with the most comprehensive exhibition ever devoted to Henri Matisse’s paper cut-outs, made from the early 1940s until the artist’s death in 1954, this publication presents approximately 150 works in a groundbreaking reassessment of Matisse’s colourful and innovative final chapter. The result of research conducted on two fronts--conservation and curatorial--the catalogue offers a reconsideration of the cut-outs by exploring a host of technical and conceptual issues: the artist’s methods and materials and the role and function of the works in his practice; their economy of means and exploitation of decorative strategies; their environmental aspects; and their double lives, first as contingent and mutable in the studio and ultimately made permanent, a transformation accomplished via mounting and framing. Richly illustrated to present the cut-outs in all of their vibrancy and luminosity, the book includes an introduction and a conservation essay that consider the cut-outs from new theoretical and technical perspectives, and five thematic essays, each focusing on a different moment in the development of the cut-out practice, that provide a chronicle of this radical medium’s unfolding, and period photographs that show the works in process in Matisse’s studio.
One of modern art’s towering figures, Henri Matisse (1869–1954) was a painter, draftsman, sculptor and printmaker before turning to paper cut-outs in the 1940s. From the clashing hues of his Fauvist works made in the South of France in 1904–05, to the harmonies of his Nice interiors from the 1920s, to this brilliant final chapter, Matisse followed a career-long path that he described as "construction by means of colour." Next to Picasso, Matisse is probably the greatest and most versatile artist of modernism. His long career embraced most of the currents of postimpressionist art, in all of which he created highly personal works of remarkable beauty and subtlety. Born in Picardie, France, Matisse came to Paris as a youth to study law, but soon began to study painting under such conventional masters as Bouguereau. Later, he moved to impressionism and fell under the influence of Cezanne; soon after, he was using pure colour in the style that characterized the Fauves (The Wild Beasts), an innovative school of art whose leading master he became. Subsequently, Matisse went through an expressionist phase, during which he was much affected by African and Near Eastern art. In that period, flat decorative patterns in brilliant colors predominated in his work, such as "La Danse" and "La Musique." In 1914, Matisse went to live on the Riviera, where he remained for the rest of his long life. Here, his great series of Odalisques occupied him until the 1930's. His last major work was the decoration of a convent chapel at Venice. Matisse was also a book illustrator of originality, a highly individual sculptor, and a creator of extraordinary paper cutouts, in which he composed pictures using pieces of brightly coloured paper. Despite severe arthritis, Matisse worked until his death at the age of 85. In 1992, a major exhibition of his works was held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City; the extraordinarily large attendance only confirmed his place as one of the greatest French painters of the twentieth century.