Print in Focus: Matisse, his cut-outs, and the Tate Modern exhibition / by Frederick Mulder

Henri Matisse Cover maquette for the exhibition catalogue, 'Henri Matisse: Lithographies rares'  Gouache on paper, cut and pasted, c. 1954 22.1 x 23.6cm

Henri Matisse

Cover maquette for the exhibition catalogue, 'Henri Matisse: Lithographies rares' 

Gouache on paper, cut and pasted, c. 1954

22.1 x 23.6cm

'The result is of more importance than it would seem', wrote Henri Matisse to his friend André Rouveyre on 22nd of February 1948,  à propos his gouaches découpées, or paper cut-outs. 

The discussion surrounding Matisse’s cut-outs is so vast and varied that covering every aspect in our Print in Focus would be impossible. For this reason, we have instead decided to highlight two of the themes underlined by the curators of the exhibition.

Matisse's cut-outs: the precursors to installations?

As explained in the Tate Modern’s superb exhibition catalogue, the gouaches découpées have two lives: one in the studio and another outside the studio.  Their first life was when they were pinned to the wall of the studios, in an endless mutation.  Their second life commenced when they were glued together in readiness to leave the studio; when they became permanent and final.  It is their first life which is of interest: when the various shapes and forms of gouaches découpées were free and went through endless possibilities and mutations, pinned, unpinned, and re-pinned.  They curled off the walls, they danced under a breeze, they shifted and turned around on their pins.  They seemed to expand endlessly.  They grew all around, across the walls of the studios, permutated form, and moved from one wall to another.  In doing so, they pushed the boundaries of the traditional easel.  They simultaneously were painting, sculpture, drawing and collage, and all the while they lived alongside other cut-outs, ink drawings, sketches, paintings, and textiles, as shown in the two photographs of Matisse’s studio below......

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