San Antonio Museum or Art
Diego Rivera

Current Exhibitions

The Art Books of Henri Matisse

June 21- September 7, 2014

matisse artbook

The Art Books of Henri Matisse presents four of twelve illustrated books created over the course of the artist’s lifetime. The books are on loan from the Bank of America Collection and will be on view June 21- September 7, 2014.

Born in Le Cateau, France, Henri Matisse (1869-1954) created a body of work that comprised paintings, drawings, prints, cutouts, and sculpture, as well as costume and stage set designs, and illustrated books over the course of his sixty-year career. This exhibition presents an opportunity to look closely at form, color, and line, as well as to gain a better understanding of the printmaking process. The artist’s techniques are as diverse as the books’ subjects.

His first illustrated book, Poésies de Stéphane Mallarmé (1932) includes fourteen etchings created to accompany the works of the French poet, a key figure among the Symbolist writers. Matisse complemented Mallarmé’s verses with spare drawings made of fine, sweeping, rarely connected lines, and no attempt at shading, which results in the page being left largely white. In Pasiphaé, Chant de Minos (Les Crétois) (1944), Matisse retells the story of the wife of King Minos and the Minoan bull through striking linoleum engravings. Jazz (1947) is considered one of the great illustrated books of the twentieth century. With its boldly colored stencils and captivating images from the circus and dance hall, it signals a new chapter in Matisse’s life in which he created masterpieces from paper cutouts. Paper cutouts were shapes of colored paper carefully cut out by hand and assembled as collages. This technique was perfected in Matisse’s final years when, confined to a wheelchair and suffering from arthritis, he found it difficult to paint. Poèmes de Charles d’Orléans, published in 1950, four years before Matisse’s death, features his fanciful, curvilinear designs and handwritten transcription of the ballads and verses of his favorite works by the Renaissance poet Charles d’Orléans.