Henri Matisse began his experimentation with cut-outs as a compositional tool in the 1930s, but it was not until 1941, when a serious illness and deteriorating eyesight prohibited more traditional forms of artistic expression, that it became his great passion. Despite its physical limitations, Matisse enjoyed the simplicity and challenge of the process, which he likened to “drawing with scissors.” It is this refinement of essential elements and visual balance that distinguishes Matisse’s later works. In 1942, the publisher Tériade suggested that Matisse illustrate a deluxe livre d’artiste with cut-out designs.
The next year the artist began a series of hand-painted paper cut-outs that served as maquettes for the stenciled prints in Jazz, the artist’s last and greatest book project. A large unbound book, it consists of 146 pages with 20 full-page color plates and Matisse’s text written in his own hand; 270 copies were printed, although few complete sets remain intact. Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art’s complete copy (Eskenazi Museum of Art 65.23.1–.20) in its original slipcase bears a personal inscription to the artist’s friend Jean Puy, a post-Impressionist painter.
Title Page from Jazz
Color pochoir and lithograph on paper
Sheet: 16 5/8 x 25 5/8 in. (42.2 x 65.0 cm)
Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art, 65.23.1
Large image not available.