Artwork of the Week: October 17

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Henri Matisse, Jazz

Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954), Jazz. Book with pochoir prints, 1947. Published by Tériade, Paris. 16 3/4 x 12 7/8 x 1 5/8 in. Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1979.3. In the special exhibition Looks Good on Paper: Masterworks & Favorites, Works on Paper Gallery.

In 1943 Henri Matisse began working on paper cutouts for a book about the circus. Unable to get the color he was looking for in commercial paper, he painted white paper with gouache (opaque watercolor). He then cut out the shapes and pinned them up on the wall of his studio, rearranging them until he was satisfied with the composition. Lithography did not reproduce the vivid colors of the painted paper satisfactorily, so Matisse decided on the pochoir technique, in which thick ink is applied with brushes through stencils. The book Jazz contains a facsimile handwritten text by Matisse that explores the artist’s thoughts on art and life. In it, he described his paper cutout technique as “Drawing with scissors: Cutting directly into color.”

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