A look at the 'Henri Matisse: The Cut Outs' exhibit at the MoMA
A legend with scissors
The story goes that in the summer of 1952, an 82-year-old Henri Matisse – who at this point was quite ill – told his studio assistant and secretary Lydia Delectorskaya that "he wanted to see divers," so they set out to his favourite pool in Cannes. Suffering under the "blazing sun," they returned home, where Matisse declared, "I will make myself my own pool."
When safely in the cool confines of his home, he then asked Delectorskaya to decorate the walls of his dining room at the Hôtel Régina in Nice with a band of white paper, positioned just above the level of his head, "breaking only at the windows and door at opposite ends of the room."
The room itself was lined with tan burlap, a popular wall covering of the time. Matisse then cut his own divers, swimmers, and sea creatures out of paper painted in an ultramarine blue using scissors. The blue forms were then pinned on the white paper, which helped define the aquatic ballet of bodies, splashing water, and light.
The Swimming Pool in Matisse's dining room at the Hôtel Régina, Nice, 1952
This resulted in Matisse's first and last self-contained, site-specific cut-out. Using a reduction of forms and a dynamic deployment of positives and negatives, The Swimming Pool expanded across the room's walls and was the culmination of Matisse's work in cut paper up until that point.
The Swimming Pool has been under MoMA ownership for almost twenty-years, but up until now it has been kept out of sight due to conservation concerns. Yesterday (after some extensive restoration over the years), the work finally went back on public display and serves as the highlight of the Henri Matisse: The Cut Outs exhibit at the MoMA, which will remain open until February 2015.
The new exhibition explores the artworks created during the last decade of Henri Matisse's life. During this period the artist used two simple materials-white paper and gouache-to create works of wide-ranging colour and complexity. Using a rather unorthodox instrument – pair of scissors – Matisse transformed paint and paper into a world of plants, animals, figures, and shapes.
Henri Matisse: The Cut Outs is now open at MoMA and runs until February 8 2015