For Christmas last year my then-husband-to-be delighted me with a lithographic print by Henri Matisse: Nuit de Noel. I was thrilled and surprised. It was an unexpected gift.
Matisse used the gouaches découpés (or paper cut-outs) technique. He created around twenty cut-outs in the last period of his life, collected in his book Jazz. Although it is, arguably, not one of his finest artworks, I love them as they are both bi-dimensional and tri-dimensional at the same time. They are flat and yet seem to come to life and perforate the canvas or board. It is sweet to think that he invented this child-like technique when he was old and ill. Matisse said once that he was “painting with scissors”.
Cut paper collages gave him the opportunity to experiment with shapes, colours and compositions. They are buoyant with life even though were composed in the last months of his life. The vibrant colours corresponds to commercial printers ink colours.
With the help of his gorgeous assistant Lydia Delectorskaya he would arrange and rearrange the coloured cut-outs and finally pin them on the walls to create a garden-like environment – his way of recreating freedom and beauty when he had to be confined indoors due to his illness.Lydia
The Clown (Jazz), 1943
La Gerbe, 1953Matisse also employed cut outs for the stained-glass windows of the Chapelle du Rosaire, a project he took on as a thank-you gesture to a young woman who had nursed him in Lyon in 1941 and later became a Dominican nun.
Nuit de Noel, one of his very last works, mimics a stained-glass window. Although it doesn’t attempt at any perspective or depth, the view that glimpses from the glass takes the viewer beyond the window into the stellar night of Christmas Eve.
I have spent months looking for the perfect frame and finally found this. I wanted an important frame which would remind the structure of an old-fashioned church window. Does it work? What do you think?