L'Avaleur de Sabres (The Sword Swallower) from Jazz
Maker and role
Artist: Henri Matisse, French, 1869-1954
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sheet, 16 5/8 x 25 1/2in (42.2 x 64.8cm)
Gift of Margaret Bosshardt Pace and family
Late in his career, Matisse, who was confined to a wheelchair and suffering from arthritis, was not able to paint with brushes Instead, he started cutting shapes out of brightly colored paper and arranging the shapes on the walls of his studio. These cutouts eventually led to the creation of Jazz. Matisse’s publisher actually chose the title of the suite even though most of the images are about the circus. Matisse went along with the idea since he felt that Jazz music as well as his own art, were examples of “chromatic and rhythmic improvisation.” In fact, that is the overarching theme that links all of the prints in the suite; they constitute a visual improvisation of form and color. Even the text, a printed reproduction of Matisse’s own handwritten notes he kept during the production of Jazz, was meant to be a visual element separating the images from each other. As a whole, Jazz is a summation of Matisse’s career, a statement of what art meant to the artist. Matisse’s use of pochoir, a kind of stencil process, to create the suite was quite revolutionary as it was usually used in commercial, not fine art, printmaking.
© Succession H. Matisse, Paris/ Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
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