Jay Fisher

When one looks at Matisse’s, the span of his career, one sees him working with similar subjects and seeing things in a new and more simplified, refined, synthesized way. In his later years he experienced abdominal cancer, this was very serious problem for him health wise and he had an operation which wasn’t entirely successful and that it damaged his abdominal muscle. So for a period, it was very difficult for Matisse to stand up at an easel and paint. So he was forced really to work in bed and he could still draw in bed. He could draw on the walls around him in his bedroom but taking a long stick and putting a piece of crayon right at the end of the stick and reaching out from his bed and drawing a figure on the wall. And the other thing that he began to do was to have his studio assistant help him paint large pieces of paper with wonderful colors that he would choose.

And then he would sit in his bed with a big pair of very sharp scissors and he would cut out the shape, whether they were figures or animals, but mostly really figures. And in the process of doing this, it almost as if he was drawing in color. So you could imagine he was using the scissors like a drawing tool as he went through these colorful sheets of paper and cutout shapes. Then when he had a large group of various shapes, then he would collage them, he would glue them down to sheets of colored paper. So you would see a black figure maybe with a red heart against a blue ground and some yellow stars. The necessity of his health problem required him to adopt a new way of drawing really. In a certain way the cutouts bring all the aspects of his art together. They bring shape together with color, they bring line together with volume. It’s as if he synthesized the experience of looking at a figure and has reduced it to the most simple element. So it’s just a pure expression of those formal goals he had in his art all of life.

Henri Matisse

What I was trying to do with these paper cutouts was to rediscover through unusual technical means, the lovely days of line and color to wring out of them, the resonance and concurrence of a new freshness.

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