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Notes! Amy Worthen on Henri Matisse's Jazz

by Rachel Buse on May 29, 2014

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Look what Amy Worthen found: the French publication VERVE, issue #1, cutting edge in 1937, with a cover by Matisse. She brought it out for her presentation on the Matisse series “Jazz,” paper cut-outs, shown in full for the first time in 8 years — at Des Moines Art Center. (Source: John Domini)

-First cutouts were used for mock-ups of set designs. Also did them for many book covers.

-Associated with the Fauve movement, French for “the wild beasts”

-Jazz was assembled in 1947, near the end of Matisse’s 40 year long career

-A collaboration between artist, publisher and printer. Also, the collector, museum and viewer.

-Matisse would cut from paper that had been first, covered in flat washes of gauche. “flat, unadulterated color” Let the paint dry, then cut.

-At the end of his life, Matisse was ill and would draw from bed with charcoal attached to the end of a long stick.

-Is the series joyousness in a vaccum, or was it responding to and referencing the time? (How was it seen in it’s time?)

-Post WW2, a dark time in history

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Icarus, Plate VIII (Source)

-10. Icarus – The story goes that he had wax wings and should not fly too close to the sun. He did and they melted. He fell into the sea and drowned. His heart in represented as a red dot.

-19 – 21. The Lagoon – In response to a trip, depicting paradise. Abstracted landscape depicted foliage and water.

-Circus motif metaphor of the artist as acrobat, swimmer. The artist is risky, defying gravity. 

-No music motifs. Why Jazz?

-The printing process is called Pochoir, which mean brushing ink through a metal/plastic stencil. The stencil makers are called, “découpeur”. The printers called, “coloriste”. This process allows for the prints to be made with gauche, preserving the original intense color of the cut-outs

-The prints used from 3-9 different colors

“Cutting directly into color reminds me of a sculptor’s carving into stone.”

– Matisse

-Try it! Spontaneously cut some shapes. Cut straight, turn. You get the shape you cut, and the leftover shape too. Henry used both the initial shape and the leftover shape.

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John Domini holding his cut shape. (Source: Rachel Buse)

-Correspondence exists documenting multiple requests to get Jazz for the permanent collection at the Des Moines Art Center. It was so rare, many nos, one gallery offered reproductions. In 1985, the 20th of the original 100 pressings was donated to the permanent collection be Mr and Mrs. E.T. Meredith III

-After the first 100, 250 more were printed with writing from Matisse beside/within the series. Preference for collectors in the original 100, hung flat. 

-Three types of compositions throughout: half, full, duality. Compositions consider the ability to be bound as a book.

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Portfolio designed to store the prints. (Source: Rachel Buse)

-The portfolio cover is brush-drawn lettering by Matisse

-prints on view in the print gallery until September 21, 2014

-Construction of the Des Moines Art Center (1948) corresponds with the creation of the prints (1947). “The prints are at home here.” The space is a contemporary of the prints. 

Rachel Buse makes sculpture.  WEBSITE