Future Matisse

Published in 1947, Jazz is a limited edition artist’s book containing full-color reproductions,
created using pochoirs, of 20 of Henri Matisse’s paper cut collages.
Matisse, who was very particular about color reproduction, worked closely with Tériade,
the publisher, who was also an art dealer, experimenting with many different printing techniques.
The themes of the works included in this book include the circus, folk tales, and travel memories.
Matisse had originally titled the book Circus, but later changed it to Jazz.
Tériade, who suggested that title, explained that the paper cuts embodied the same improvisational spirit
as jazz and that music was an indispensable part of Matisse’s life. Thus, his paper cut collages resemble jazz.

Please click Illustration for more information.

The Clown

The Clown

This paper cut, one of the circus-related themes, presents the moment when the clown appears from behind the black curtain on the right. This clown is a barker, performing tricks in front of the theater to attract customers. This scene is highly suitable for the first illustration in the book.

The Clown

The Horse, the Rider, and the Clown

The Horse, the Rider, and the Clown

Here we see a scene from the circus. The equestrienne, wearing a black and white skirt, straddles the horse. A clown dressed in green, black, and yellow stands beside it. The yellow curve cutting across the screen is the ringmaster’s whip.

The Horse, the Rider, and the Clown

The Circus

The Circus

Above the red carpet in the lower right, we see a yellow line representing a net. Our eyes are drawn to the black silhouette crossing the net. The word “Cirque” (circus) appears on both sides of the two-page spread, suggesting that this collage may have been the original design for the cover.

The Circus

Mr. Loyal

Mr. Loyal

This distinctive profile is that of the 19th century ringmaster of the Cirque Napoleon, Joseph Leopold Loyal (1835-89). The blue background represents his costume and the two rows of yellow dots the gold buttons on his jacket.

Mr. Loyal

Le Papier decoupé me permet Dessiner dans la couleur

Cutting the paper allows me to draw with color.

The Nightmare of the White Elephant

The Nightmare of the White Elephant

The circus’s white elephant stands on a ball skillfully performing a trick. The black shapes that surround the elephant suggest his home in the jungle. The pointed red stripes piercing the elephant represent its suffering or, alternatively, its nightmare.

The Nightmare of the White Elephant

The Wolf

The Wolf

In a 1944 letter to Tériade, Matisse entitled this scene “The better to eat you with,” which suggests that its theme is taken from the fairy tale “Little Red Riding Hood.” Here we see the wolf opening its mouth and baring its teeth.

The Wolf

The Heart

The Heart

Besides images from the circus, Jazz also includes abstract motifs. In this work we see a slightly distorted red heart. Here we see a link between this work and the round, red heart in the chest of Icarus, the next work in this series.

The Heart

Pierrot's Funeral

Pierrot's Funeral

The horse-drawn hearse is passing through a shower of blossoms. The road is covered with fallen leaves. The small red figure represents Pierrot’s corpse. The original of this work was created in 1943, when it was entitled Four-wheel Carriage. In 1944, the title was changed to Pierrot’s Funeral.

Pierrot's Funeral

The Knife Thrower

The Knife Thrower

A knife thrower was a familiar circus act. The tension is high as he throws his knives at the wall against which the girl is standing. The figure on the left is the knife thrower. On the right the girl stands with her arms raised. The knife’s target is near her left armpit.

The Knife Thrower

Icarus

Icarus

In this tale taken from The Odyssey, the master craftsman Daedalus creates wax wings like the wings of a bird. Wearing the wings, his son Icarus flies up into the sky. Forgetting his father’s warning, he flies too high. The Sun melts his wings, and he falls into the sea.

Icarus

Improvisations chromatiques et rythmes

Chromatic and rhythmic improvisations.

The Codomas

The Codomas

The Codomas were famous trapeze artists active at the start of the 20th century. Here the brothers are leaping from one trapeze to another against a green and white sky. The two brothers are shown in yellow. Below them is the safety net, just in case.

The Codomas

Forms

Forms

In a 1944 letter to Tériade, Matisse writes that the poses of these two forms represent two beautiful torsos. The one on the underside is an almost white grey on a sky blue background. The one on the front is sky blue on an almost white background.

Forms

The Swimmer in the Tank

The Swimmer in the Tank

A female performer is swimming in a tank placed up on the stage. This sort of performance was common in music halls in Paris. The big red circle in the lower right is the head of a member of the audience entranced by the performance.

The Swimmer in the Tank

The Lagoon

The Lagoon

These images recall Matisse’s 1930 trip to Tahiti. Whether the organic-looking forms depict animals or plants is unclear, but as they sway back and forth, these aquatic creatures possess an energy that almost projects beyond the frame.

The Lagoon

The Cowboy

The Cowboy

The two black silhouettes depicts a cowboy on horseback and the woman he has lassoed. At first glance this scene may seem unrelated to the circus, but, the circuses of that period included performances by a cowboy and horses engaged in a comic dialogue to make the audience laugh.

The Cowboy

l'éternel conflit du dessin et de la couleur

The eternal conflict between sketching and color.

The Lagoon

The Lagoon

These images recall Matisse’s 1930 trip to Tahiti. Whether the organic-looking forms depict animals or plants is unclear, but as they sway back and forth, these aquatic creatures possess an energy that almost projects beyond the frame.

The Lagoon

Destiny

Destiny

The small white figures in the blue box on the right are a couple clutching each other as if afraid of something. The black and purple abstract form on the left represents the destiny they fear. Its size gives that destiny a powerful presence.

Destiny

The Lagoon

The Lagoon

These images recall Matisse’s 1930 trip to Tahiti. Whether the organic-looking forms depict animals or plants is unclear, but as they sway back and forth, these aquatic creatures possess an energy that almost projects beyond the frame.

The Lagoon

The Sword Swallower

The Sword Swallower

Here we see a circus performer with his head tipped back swallowing three swords. Mr. Loyal was originally created as a sword swallower as well. The sword swallower, upside down, his mouth wide open, suggested the ringmaster, Mr. Loyal.

The Sword Swallower

The Toboggan

The Toboggan

Tériade proposed the publication of Jazz in 1941. In 1943, Matisse began to work on the project. His first two images were The Clown and The Toboggan. In this work we see a human figure tumbling off while riding a toboggan, a runnerless sled, down a slope.

The Toboggan

Jazz, 1947, stencil/paper 42.2×65.5cm

Le noir est une couleur en soi

Black itself is a color.

Matisse’s visual table of contents for Jazz
Matisse’s visual table of contents for Jazz