Jazz (Henri Matisse)

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Cover of Jazz by Henri Matisse

Jazz (1947) is an artist's book of 250 prints for the folded book version and 100 impressions for the suite, which contains the unfolded pochoirs without the text, based on paper cutouts by Henri Matisse. Tériade, a noted 20th century art publisher, arranged to have Matisse's cutouts rendered as pochoir (stencil) prints.

Original creation[edit]

Matisse was in his seventies and in poor health when he began this project; he could no longer draw or paint easily with a pencil or brush. He used scissors to cut out simple forms from brightly colored paper painted to his specifications with gouache, then arranged them on another sheet of gouache-painted paper. Assistants took these assemblages and prepared them for printing. It was a popular practice at the time for noted artists to create limited edition books. The original intention was for Matisse to illustrate poems written by a French author. As Matisse began, he used a large fluid brush to write notes to himself on construction paper about his thoughts as he created the images. The simple visual appearance of the words pleased Matisse, and he suggested using his roughly painted words in juxtaposition with the images, rather than the original poems. The publisher agreed.

Many of the prints in Jazz take their theme from the theatre or circus. Tériade came up with the seemingly inappropriate title. However, Matisse not only went along, but was taken with the idea, sensing a connection of the visual and musical through improvisation on a theme.

None of the original copies were bound, and many of the purchasers arranged with prominent artists like Cocteau (copy in Victoria and Albert Museum) or famous graphic designers to create binders for the pages. Each of the pages is about 24 inches by 12 inches and folded in the center. Some of the pages have Matisse's text on the left side and an image on the right; other pages, like The Funeral of Pierrot, cover the entire sheet and there is no text. Covers simply press the pages flat and hold them together. The original edition of September 30, 1947 consisted of 250 sets of prints and sold for $120 each.

The prints from Jazz have been reproduced as posters. Among the most popular have been: Icarus, "The Horse, the Rider and the Clown", The Sword Swallower, The Swimming Pool, The Funeral of Pierrot, and Toboggan.[citation needed] In the order in which they were originally printed the prints are:

I Le clown (The Clown)
II Le cirque (The Circus)
III Monsieur Loyal (Mister Loyal) - inspired by Joseph-Leopold Loyal, ringmaster of the Cirque de l'Imperatrice and Cirque Napoleon
IV Le cauchemar de l'Eléphant blanc (The Nightmare of the White Elephant)
V Le cheval, l'écuyère et le clown (The Horse, the Rider and the Clown)
VI Le loupe (The Wolf)
VII Le coeur (The Heart)
VIII Icare (Icarus, also known as The Fall of Icarus)
IX Formes (Forms)
X L'enterrement de Peirrot (The Funeral of Pierrot)
XI Les Codomas (The Codomas)
XII La nageuse dans l'aquarium (The Swimmer in the Pool)
XIII L'avaleur de sabres (The Sword Swallower)
XIV Le cow-boy (The Cowboy)
XV Le lanceur de couteaux (The Knife Thrower)
XVI Le destin (Destiny)
XVII Le lagon (Lagoon I)
XVIII Le lagon (Lagoon II)
XIX Le lagon (Lagoon III)
XX Le tobogan (The Toboggan)


  • Jazz by Henri Matisse, introduction by Riva Castleman, George Braziller 1983 ISBN 0-8076-1075-5
  • Jazz by Henri Matisse, introduction by Dominique Szymusiak, Editions Anthese 2005 [1]

External links[edit]