EXHIBITION ON VIEW
The Art Books of Henri Matisse, Works from the Bank of America Collection
Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954) is one of the preeminent artists of the twentieth century. Starting in the 1930s, he devoted much of his time to printmaking and book illustration. Over two decades, Matisse illustrated twelve books. His first illustrated book, Poésies de Stéphane Mallarmé (The Poetry of Stéphane Mallarmé), was published by Skira in 1932 and includes fourteen images created to accompany the works of the French poet, a key figure among the Symbolist writers. The illustrations in Poésies are characterized by the use of simple, delicate lines, making them some of Matisse’s most elegant works of art. Pasiphaé—Chant de Minos (Les Crétois) (Pasiphaé—Song of Minos [The Cretans]), published in 1944, retells the story of Pasiphaé, wife of King Minos, and the Minoan bull. For these illustrations, Matisse used linoleum engraving to create white lines on a solid black background, suggesting ancient Greek black-ground vase paintings.
Jazz, published in 1947, is considered one of the great illustrated books of the twentieth century; Matisse created both the text and illustrations. Based on imagery from the circus and music halls, the boldly colored illustrations are derived from Matisse’s cutouts. Although he had devised the art form years earlier, it wasn’t until the 1940s that Matisse focused on papiers découpés. He perfected the technique in the final years of his long career when, confined to a wheelchair and suffering from arthritis, he found it difficult to paint. In a delightful calligraphy, Matisse expressed his thoughts on the creative process and the inspiration of music.
Poèmes de Charles d’Orléans (Poems of Charles d’Orléans), 1950, was published four years before Matisse’s death and features his fanciful, curvilinear designs and handwritten transcriptions of the ballads and verses of the French Renaissance poet Charles d’Orléans. Matisse copied poems using colored crayons with a spontaneity and freedom reminiscent of the way he used scissors in his late cutouts.