Exhibition: “Jazz” by Matisse

The Mount House Gallery
from Friday 15th September – Sunday 1st October 2017

Opening: 7-9pm Friday 15th September

Jazz is probably the most celebrated artists’ books in the history of 20th century Art. It is a folio of printed plates based on Matisse’s explorations of colour and shape, accompanied by his written musings. 

It is a result of a lifetime’s fearless artistic commitment. Each page reveals deeply felt ideas and sensitivity to visual stimuli for the most exhilarating, most satisfying result.

Henri Matisse (French, 1869-1954); one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, refused to leave France after the outbreak of World War II. In 1940 German forces overtook Paris, and his daughter and son participated in the resistance movement. In 1941 Matisse was diagnosed with cancer and became bedridden following surgery. His household moved to the city of Nice in 1943 to escape the threat of Allied bombing. That same year, at the age of 74, Matisse began Jazz, a much-celebrated portfolio of works characterised by brilliant colours, joyful circus and theater themes. All twenty prints from the edition of Jazz will be on display in the Mount House Gallery at Marlborough College in September 2017.

These works represent the great artist’s lifelong unflagging creativity. “Une seconde vie”, a second life, was what Matisse called the last fourteen years of his life. Following an operation he found renewed and unexpected energies and though limited in his mobility, Matisse could not paint or sculpt. Instead, he cut out forms from coloured papers that he arranged as collages. His assistants then prepared the collages for printing in a stencil process referred to by the French term pochoir. Matisse worked on the series for over two years, with the act of cutting shapes from brightly coloured sheets of paper fusing in a single process both drawing and colour, two important elements in Matisse’s work.

In 1947, Matisse’s publisher Tériade issued the prints in an artist’s portfolio that included 20 colour prints, with handwritten texts by Matisse expressing his thoughts as he created the images. The bright colours and lively subject matter combined with the text evoke a joie de vivre that marks this project as one of the most beautiful artist’s books of the 20th century. Tériade came up with the title Jazz, which Matisse liked because it suggested a connection between art and musical improvisation. As the English composer, Vaughan Williams, mentioned; “The dark rhythms, rolling counterpoint, happy staccatos, and jolting dissonances of this “Jazz” will sound forever. Matisse has taught the eye to hear.”

The prints from “Jazz” have become classic images and have been reproduced countless times as posters. They are among the most admired and influential works of Matisse’s entire career. And, they belong with the grandest affirmations of the élan vital in Western art.

Among the most popular have been: “Icarus”, “The Sword Swallower”, “The Swimming Pool, The Funeral of Pierrot”, and “Toboggan”. 

Henri Matisse; “Jazz- The Complete Portfolio.” Printed in colours, with text, justification (with a facsimile of the colophon to the original edition of 250 copies, signed by the artist and published by Teriade for Editions Verve on 30 September 1947. 43/250) and 22 visual images (complete set), on wove, printed and published by George Braziller; 406 x 211mm (complete folio and text).

This start of school year exhibition presents and celebrates all 20 prints from the edition of Jazz.
Edward Twohig
Head of Art

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