The Last Works of Henri Matisse: Large Cut Gouaches

By Monroe Wheeler | Go to book overview

THE LAST WORKS OF HENRI MATISSE · LARGE CUT GOUACHES

The exhibition which this book accompanies might be called a sequel to the large Matisse retrospective presented in 1951- 1952,1 when The Museum of Modern Art published not only a catalogue but Alfred H. Barr, Jr.'s monumental and definitive study, Matisse: His Art and His Public. Matisse had already produced a number of his important cut-and-pasted gouache compositions, which were exhibited at that time: Beasts of the Sea, The Thousand and One Nights, eight designs for stained-glass windows and a set of patterns for chasubles for the Chapel of the Rosary of the Dominican Nuns in Vence.2 But Matisse went on with this medium until his death in 1954, varying and developing the technique on a larger and larger scale, imbuing it with a subtlety and depth of meaning which no one had foreseen when he began working on this way. Therefore it has seemed imperative to exhibit this last chapter of his lifework.

Over and above our desire to make known in this country every aspect of Matisse's work, these audacious final productions have a particular significance with reference to certain early achievements and to his art as a whole. He was an artist of the greatest resourcefulness in his several media, and he had always shown a particular interest in, and mastery of, two-dimensional representation: the use of flat or cursorily modeled color bounded by a dark peremptory line or by a blank space on the canvas or the page, not for decorative effect, but to give a magical illusion of entire and rounded form, in true perspective and in three dimensions.

A very impressive prefiguration of these cut gouache compositions appears in the Interior Eggplants in the Grenoble museum, painted in Collioure in 1911. Executed in tempera, a medium which like gouache lends itself to effects of flatness, it portrays a room not only carpeted but bordered by large flowers, subdivided around an arabesque screen, with stylizations of a window and a mirror and a fireplace, and pictures within the picture; and in the center of all this, on a table with a leaf-patterned cloth, the vegetables which gave it its title. A Chinese proverb says that to dream of three eggplants

____________________
1
Co-Sponsors: The Museum of Modern Art, New York; The Cleveland Museum of Art; The Art Institute of Chicago; San Francisco Museum of Art.
2
In 1953 and in 1955 The Museum of Modern Art acquired by purchase and gift five of these silk vestments and a sixth unfinished one.

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The Last Works of Henri Matisse: Large Cut Gouaches
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Acknowledgments 5
  • The Last Works of Henri Matisse · Large Cut Gouaches 7
  • Selected Bibliography 44
  • Catalogue of the Exhibition 45
  • Index of Color Plates 47
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