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Hélène Adant, Matisse's apartment on Boulevard Montparnasse, Paris, October 1946 © Hélène Adant Centre Pompidou - Mnam - Biblio

How Matisse's cut-outs grew on the walls of his Paris apartment (By Flavia Frigeri)

This week our assistant curator, Flavia Frigeri, explains how the memory of a trip to the South Pacific inspired Matisse to create his first large-scale cut-outs on the walls of his Paris apartment in 1946

'From the first, the enchantments of the sky there, the sea, the fish and the coral in the lagoons, plunged me into the inaction of total ecstasy. The local tones of things hadn't changed, but their effect in the ight of the Pacific gave me the same feeling as I had when I looked into a large golden chalice. With my eyes open I absorbed everything as a sponge absorbs liquid. It is only now that these wonders have returned to me, with tenderness and clarity, and have permitted me, with protracted pleasure, to execute these two panels.'

In 1930 Matisse traveled to Tahiti and the South Pacific, where he spent several months. Over fifteen years later the memories of this trip resurfaced on the walls of his Parisian apartment on Boulevard Montparnasse, giving birth to Oceania, the Sky and Oceania, the Sea. The first of his large-scale compositions using the cut-outs, the two panels were produced in response to a decorative commission for the London-based textile manufacturer Zika Ascher. Ascher who had approached Matisse at the beginning of 1946, was confronted in the summer of that year with the finished designs of Oceania pinned directly onto the walls of the artist's bedroom. Asked to replicate the exact layout including the uniform beige colour and texture of the apartment walls, Ascher was faced with no easy task.

For the complete article by Flavia Frigeri, click here



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