Matisse: Cut-Outs at MOMA – Introduction by Franklin Hill Perrell

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Remarkable about Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs at MOMA is its revelation of a public artist who created many of the works shown not only as finished works but as maquettes to satisfy a demand for his productions of prints, illustrated books, book covers, theatre curtains, decorative fabrics including wearable art, a carpet, stained glass, ceramic tile, and architectural installations. We sense the practical resourcefulness of an artist who relied on an audience not only for financial reinforcement, but as an essential element in his artistic dialogue. Artistic production, was for him, part of an equation which required a receptive and appreciative viewer for completion.

The decorative appeal of Matisse’s work, especially the cut-outs, is compelling and inescapable. The transition in media, wherein his decisive adaptation to serious limitations of mobility, as a now handicapped artist whose prior style was already established, aroused a surprise late flowering of artistic invention. Matisse declared by the late 1940’s that he was “through with painting.” His new style owed its distinctive look to the formal properties of the cut-out medium, and the visual and intellectual stimulus arising from his engagement with this new technique. Rarely, if ever before in history, is late work endowed with such freshness, timelessness, and originality.

MOMA’s exhibition of Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs, enriches our capacity to understand his achievement, to unsettle old myths, and recognize values never before perceived, and purposefully expands upon MOMA’s tradition of examining this essential artist in singular exhibitions which began during the Matisse’s lifetime.

Photos Courtesy of Museum of Modern Art
Left: Matisse at Villa le Rêve, Vence, c. 1946-47. La Biennale di Venezia – Archivio Storico delle Arti Contemporanee. Photo by Interfoto  Right: Henri Matisse (French, 1869-1954). The Sheaf (La Gerbe), 1953. Maquette for ceramic (realized 1953). Gouache on paper, cut and pasted, on paper, mounted on canvas. 115 ¾ x 137 ¾” (294 x 350 cm). Collection University of California, Los Angeles. Hammer Museum. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Sidney F. Brody. © 2015 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York


This three part essay is part of Artful Circle’s journalistic endeavor: Artful Observer: Blog. To read the blog, you can visit on our website, or directly on Our articles will not only feature Artful Circle activities, but also art news about blockbuster museum exhibitions and showcasing selected artists and gallery shows. For the last few weeks, Franklin Hill Perrell has been making several visits to the latest exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art on Henri Matisse and his cut-outs. After viewing the show and doing extensive additional research, he has put together an in-depth article that will help you appreciate the exhibit and art with deeper understanding. Whether you have the opportunity to get to MOMA or simply want to learn more, Franklin has created a comprehensive essay for your reading pleasure.

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