21st August – 3rd October 2010 – Museum of Modern Art Passau Wörlen
Henri Matisse (1869-1954 ) won in the early 1930s, the offer to illustrated the poems of Stéphane Mallarmé with full-page etchings. Later on forced to lay in bed because of cancer, Matisse created in a concentrated period of the 1940s, several large painting books: the illustration of James Joyce “Ulysses” and woodcuts for Baudelaire’s “Les Fleurs du Mal “.

This new lease on life after his recovery from cancer led to an extraordinary burst of expression, the culmination of half a century of work, but also to a radical renewal that made it possible for him to create what he had always struggled for: “I have needed all that time to reach the stage where I can say what I want to say.” With the aid of Lydia Delectorskaya and assistants he set about creating cut paper collages, often on a enormous scale, called gouaches découpés. By maneuvering scissors through prepared sheets of paper, he inaugurated a new phase of his career.
In 1947 he published Jazz, a limited-edition book containing prints of colorful paper cut collages, accompanied by his written thoughts, which Matisse prepared during the war but which was only published in 1947. The book and the concurrently published album with the twenty color plates was only printed in a hundred copies. The lively multicolor forms, both abstract and figurative, seem to echo the voice of a man stubbornly refusing to be cowed by the times. But he was also enchanted by the technique. “The walls of my bedroom are covered with cutouts,” he wrote to André Rouveyre in 1948. “I still don’t know what I’ll do with them.”

Jazz was published by Efstratios Tériade with whom Matisse had previously collaborated on several other printed projects involving art and text. Tériade’s artful magazine Verve had already featured, as cover illustrations, examples of Matisse’s cutout work. No serious artist had ever taken collage to this extreme of simplicity and description, and there were those who ridiculed him for it. Nonetheless, Jazz was a natural outgrowth of the increasing limitations of Matisse’s physical agility and the abundance of his creative spirit at this time.

Matisse viewed jazz as a “chromatic and rhythmic improvisation.” The title Jazz evoked for Matisse the idea of a structure of rhythm and repetition broken by the unexpected action of improvisations. The artist wrote to a friend in late 1947, “There are wonderful things in real jazz, the talent for improvisation, the liveliness, the being at one with the audience.”

Museum Hours