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Matisse and the Art of Jazz

Saturday, January 20, 2018Sunday, July 1, 2018

Installation view of Matisse and the Art of Jazz. Photograph by Tom Loonan.

1962 Building

Henri Matisse recognized the expressive potential of printmaking, and over the course of his career, he created a large body of graphic works that both informed and rearticulated themes he explored in other mediums. During the 1930s, the artist started making collages as studies for paintings and sculptures by arranging cut paper into decorative configurations. Bedridden during a prolonged convalescence following a serious operation in 1941, he began to consider further the possibilities that “painting with scissors” offered—an experiment that endured for the last decade of Matisse’s life. 

Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954). Le clown (The Clown) from Jazz, 1947. Pochoir print, edition 212/250, 16 1/2 x 25 5/8 inches (41.9 x 65.1 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Room of Contemporary Art Fund, 1948 (RCA1948:11.1.1). © Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954). L’avaleur de sabres (Sword Swallower) from Jazz, 1947. Pochoir print, 16 1/2 x 25 5/8 inches (41.9 x 65.1 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Anonymous Gift, 2016 (P2016:3). © Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954). La Musique, 1939. Oil on canvas, 45 3/8 x 45 3/8 inches (115.3 x 115.3 cm). Collection Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York; Room of Contemporary Art Fund, 1940 (RCA1940:13). © Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Jazz is one of the fantastical imaginings to hail from this period and the only book both written and illustrated by Matisse. Its twenty vivid stencil prints are based on images realized from various shapes cut out of gouache-painted sheets of paper and are accompanied by poetic notes expressing the artist’s thoughts and opinions. The subjects of these compositions range from circus performers and music halls to Matisse’s travel experiences. The artist once commented that “Jazz is rhythm and meaning,” and the title suggests a connection between the process of making visual art and musical improvisation.

Assembled from the Albright-Knox’s collection, this spotlight exhibition will present all twenty illustrated plates from Jazz. This presentation was only recently made possible by the welcome gift of folio XIII, The Sword Swallower, which completed the Albright-Knox’s Jazz portfolio. Joining these is a small selection of additional works by Matisse that visually traces the ways in which spontaneity, lively compositions, and brilliant hues harmoniously merge in the artist’s practice.  

This exhibition is organized by Godin-Spaulding Curator & Curator for the Collection Holly E. Hughes.

Exhibition Sponsors

Support for this exhibition has been provided by C2 Paint.

The Albright-Knox Art Gallery’s exhibition program is generously supported by The Seymour H. Knox Foundation, Inc.