MoMA Announces <i>Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs</i>
In the late 1940s, Henri Matisse (1869-1954) turned increasingly to cut paper as his primary medium and scissors as his chief implement, introducing a radically new kind of work that came to be called a cut-out. Matisse cut painted sheets into forms of varying shapes and sizes—from the vegetal to the abstract—which he then arranged into lively compositions, striking for their play with color and contrast, their exploitation of decorative strategies, and their economy of means. Initially, these compositions were of modest size but, over time, their scale grew along with Matisse's ambitions for them, expanding into mural- or room-size works. A brilliant final chapter in Matisse's long career, the cut-outs reflect both a renewed commitment to form and color and an inventiveness freshly directed to the status of the work of art, whether as a unique object, environment, ornament, or a hybrid of all of these.
The exhibition was sparked by a multiyear initiative to conserve the Museum's monumental cut-out The Swimming Pool, acquired in 1975. The room-size work has been off view at MoMA for more than 20 years, and will return to view in MoMA's exhibition following extensive conservation. Matisse's only cut-out composed for a specific room—the artist's dining room in his apartment in Nice, France—The Swimming Pool depicts swimmers splashing in water and leaping through air in a reduced palette of blue and white, fulfilling Matisse's grand ambition to work at the scale of a mural.