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Jazz (Henri Matisse)

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Title: Jazz (Henri Matisse)  
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Subject: Henri Matisse, Artists' books, Jazz (disambiguation), Linee, An Anna Blume
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Jazz (Henri Matisse)

Cover of Jazz by Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse’s Jazz is a limited edition artist’s book containing prints of colorful cut paper collages, accompanied by the artist’s written thoughts. It was first issued on September 30, 1947, by art publisher Tériade. The portfolio, characterized by vibrant colors, poetic texts, and circus and theater themes, marks Matisse’s transition to a new form of medium.[1]


  • Original creation 1
  • List of prints 2
  • References and sources 3
  • External links 4

Original creation

Diagnosed with abdominal cancer in 1941, Matisse underwent surgery that left him chair and bed bound. Limited in mobility, he could no longer paint or sculpt. Instead, he cut forms from colored paper that he arranged as collages, and decoupage which became known as the “cut-outs.”[2]

That same year, at the age of 74, Matisse began Jazz. His assistants helped prepare the collages for printing, using a stencil process known as pochoir in French. He worked on the series for two years, utilizing this new method that linked drawing and color—two important elements in Matisse’s work.[3]

The designs were initially intended as covers for Verve, a French art magazine published by Tériade. In 1947, Tériade issued the compositions in an artist’s portfolio. The book included 20 color prints, each about 16 by 26 inches, as well as Matisse’s handwritten notes expressing his thoughts throughout the process. Tériade gave it the title Jazz, which Matisse liked because it suggested a connection between art and musical improvisation. Despite the low number of books printed, Jazz was well received.[4][5]

The circus, the title originally suggested for the book, provided inspiration for the majority of the motifs concerning performing artists and balancing acts. “These images, with their lively and violent tones, derive from crystallizations of memories of circuses, folktales, and voyages,” Matisse explains in the accompanying text.[6] The figure of the circus artist, usually depicted alone, is often seen as a metaphor for the artist himself.

The first prints illustrating the circus do not seem to have an immediate connection to the succeeding works. However, these compositions are viewed as metaphors of life. The overall themes in Jazz derive from biographical elements, such as Matisse's recollection of his travels to Tahiti in the Lagoons (XVII-XIX), as well as broader aspects including love (V, VI), death (X), and fate (XVI).[7]

List of prints

The titles of the individual sheets, together with supplementary explanations by his assistant Lydia Delectorskaya, in English translation are:
I The Clown
II The Circus
III Monsieur Loyal (a well-known Parisian circus director in the nineteenth century)
IV The Nightmare of the White Elephant
V The Horse, the Rider and Clown
VI The Wolf (i.e. the wolf from Red Riding Hood, the fairy tale by Charles Perrault. It is also an allusion to Hitler, i.e. contemporary history)
VII The Heart
VIII Icarus
IX Forms
X Pierrot's Funeral
XI The Codomas (two famous trapeze artists)
XII The Swimmer in the Tank (a memory of a performance Matisse saw in the aquarium of the Folies-Bergère)
XIII The Sword Swallower
XIV The Cowboy
XV The Knife Thrower
XVI Destiny
XVII Lagoon I
XIX Lagoon III
XX Toboggan (slide)[8]

References and sources

  1. ^ Matisse, Henri (2001). Jazz. New York: Prestel Publishing. p. 9.  
  2. ^ Cotter, Holland (October 9, 2014), "Wisps From an Old Man’s Dreams ‘Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs,’ a Victory Lap at MoMA", New York Times, retrieved February 17, 2015 
  3. ^ Henri Matisse’s Joyful, Poetic Works Created in the Midst of War, Cantor Arts Center, retrieved April 6, 2015 
  4. ^ Henri Matisse’s Joyful, Poetic Works Created in the Midst of War, Cantor Arts Center, retrieved April 6, 2015 
  5. ^ Matisse, Henri (2001). Jazz. New York: Prestel Publishing. p. 9.  
  6. ^ Matisse, Henri (2001). Jazz. New York: Prestel Publishing. p. 13.  
  7. ^ Berggruen, Olivier; Hollein, Max (2006). Henri Matisse: Drawing with Scissors: Masterpieces from the Late Years. New York: Prestel Publishing. p. 23.  
  8. ^ Berggruen, Olivier; Hollein, Max (2006). Henri Matisse: Drawing with Scissors: Masterpieces from the Late Years. New York: Prestel Publishing. p. 33.  
  • Jazz by Henri Matisse, introduction by Riva Castleman, George Braziller 1983 ISBN 0-8076-1075-5
  • Jazz by Henri Matisse, introduction by Dominique Szymusiak, Editions Anthese 2005 [2]

External links

  • by Henri MatisseJazzGreg Kucera essay on
  • title pageJazz, Sword Swallower, Icarus, The Cowboy by Henri Matisse
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