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Museum gotta see ‘um
September 13, 2013, 05:00 AM By Susan Cohn Daily Journal

2013 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Henri Matisse (France, 1869"1954), Le Cirque from the portfolio Jazz, 1947. Pochoir. On display as part of Matisse Jazz, at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University through Sept. 22.

MATISSE JAZZ AT THE CANTOR ARTS CENTER AT STANFORD UNIVERSITY. Henri Matisse, one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, refused to leave France after the outbreak of World War II, even as the Germans occupied Paris and his children began working for the Resistance. In 1941, Matisse underwent radical surgery for cancer and thereafter was obliged to work either from a wheelchair or from bed. Despite these circumstances, in 1943, at the age of 74, Matisse began Jazz, a much-celebrated portfolio of works characterized by brilliant colors, poetic texts and joyful circus and theater themes. The works represent the artist’s lifelong unflagging creativity. Limited in his mobility, Matisse could not paint or sculpt. Instead, he cut out forms from colored 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 two years, with the act of cutting shapes from brightly colored sheets of paper linking in a single process both drawing and color, two important elements in Matisse’s work. In 1947, Matisse’s publisher Tériade issued the prints in an artist’s portfolio that included 20 color prints, each about 16 by 26 inches, with handwritten texts by Matisse expressing his thoughts as he created the images. The bright colors and lively subject matter, combined with the text, evoke a joie de vivre that mark 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.

In 1948, Matisse gave an edition of Jazz to Sarah Stein, sister-in-law of author Gertrude Stein, an important patron. Sarah Stein, Matisse’s confidante and also his patron, donated the edition, along with numerous prints by Matisse, to Stanford University after she moved to Palo Alto from Paris. The works then joined the major collection of rare books and works of art on paper under the care of the Stanford Library. This exhibition presents all 20 prints from the edition of Jazz held in the Gunst Collection in Special Collections at the Stanford University Library.

Connie Wolf, the John and Jill Freidenrich Director of the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University, said, “The Jazz series by Matisse is truly extraordinary. Matisse so beautifully displays his ability to combine color and shape to create images that are compelling, enlightening and full of energy. It is a delight to see the original works and be able to look closely and directly experience the lively forms and beloved style typical of Matisse’s later career. These works are the perfect complement to our other special exhibitions of French art now on view. We invite the community to come to the Cantor, enjoy these works and discover all the Cantor has to offer.”

MORE ABOUT POCHOIR. Pochoir, a stencil-based printing technique popular from the late 19th century through the 1930s, was primarily used by illustrators and designers to create patterns and architectural design prints. It was used during the Art Nouveau and Art Deco periods, and at the peak of its popularity in the early 20th century there were as many as 30 graphic design studios in France using this technique, each employing up to 600 workers. Pochoir was used by artists, in conjunction with other media such as engraving, lithography or photography, as a means of adding color to a print. Each print is unique because it is done by hand and each remains vivid in both tactile and visual sense. Artists in addition to Matisse who used pochoir as a printing technique included Man Ray, Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, Albert Gleizes, Juan Gris, Fernand Léger and Sonia Delaunay.

MUSEUM PARTICULARS. “Matisse Jazz” joins five other exhibitions this season, presenting a special opportunity for visitors to experience French art at the Cantor Arts Center. The other exhibitions feature prints from the School of Fontainebleau; graphic arts by Edouard Manet and his contemporaries; 400 years of French drawings from the Blanton Museum of Art; old master figure drawings from the Cantor’s collection; and lithographs by Symbolist artist Odilon Redon. The Cantor is open Wednesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. and Thursday until 8 p.m. and is located on the Stanford campus, off Palm Drive at Museum Way. Parking is free on weekends and after 4 p.m. on weekdays. Information can be obtained by calling 723-4177 or visiting Matisse Jazz is on display through Sept. 22.

Susan Cohn can be reached at or



Tags: matisse, stanford, works, cantor, prints, pochoir,

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