Henri MATISSE, Jazz, Paris, published by Tériade, 1947
Le Cirque, plate II - 42 x 32,5 cm - Collection of the Villa Arson, Nice,
Gift of Henri Matisse to the Nice School of Decorative Arts in April 1950
© Estate of H. Matisse
“One is impressed by the size of the collection of musical instruments in the Palais Lascaris, nearly 700 instruments and accessories covering more than four centuries of the History of musical practice including twentieth century instruments particularly intended for jazz.
This phenomenon of jazz found the perfect home in Nice when the war was over, as its festival dates from 1948. At Lascaris, an old seventeenth century palace in Nice, the history of local music, an impressive instrumental heritage, and reference to the Jazz album by Matisse published in 1947 all come together. A most fortunate conjunction just like that of Sylvie Lecat, Conservator of the Palais Lascaris, and Daniel Soutif who was my Director of Cultural Development at the Centre Pompidou and who is responsible for the exhibition “Jazz century” presented by the Musée du Quai Branly in 2009.”
Henri Matisse undertook the book Jazz at the beginning of the nineteen forties. During these war years he lived in the south of France. In Nice, at the Régina, then in Vence, at the villa of Le Rêve, he was able to devote himself to his work in greater peace than in Paris. At this time Matisse was over seventy years old and was hoping for the “completion” of his work. The operation he underwent in 1941 gave him a reprieve, a “second life” which would allow him to produce the chapel in Vence, his “masterpiece”, inaugurated in 1951. The Jazz album is the preliminary work for this.The exhibition shows the illustrated book Jazz (1943-1947) and the evolution of paper cut-outs in Matisse’s creation from the beginning of the 1930s. With this technique Matisse produces La Danse (1930-1933), commissioned by Dr Barnes for his foundation in the United States, then the stage sets for Rouge et Noir for the Ballets Russes in Monte-Carlo (1937). Matisse also created several cut-out watercolours for the cover of art magazines such as Cahiers d’art and Verve. His friendship with Tériade, the publisher of Verve, led to the production of an illustrated book on the theme of the circus, which became Jazz. Circus images, impressions and memories of travel to New York and Tahiti were combined with feelings to inspire the plates of this book. “These images in bright and violent tones are crystallisations of memories of the circus, popular stories or travel” declared Matisse. In 1946 he added hand-written texts. The twenty plates of the book Jazz are presented as if they were paintings in the exhibition. “Jazz is rhythm and meaning.” The painting of Matisse and jazz music share the same impulses: rhythm and improvisation. Between the two wars, jazz became increasingly popular in France, encouraged by the presence of the allied armed forces, performances featuring black artistes and musicians, the “Revue Nègre”, Josephine Baker and Sidney Bechet, radio programmes and record sales. In 1943, the Hot Club de France jazz association, opened a branch in Nice, and it was also in Nice in 1948 that the first international jazz festival took place. In the exhibition, the chronology and history of jazz in France, from the late 1920s to the end of the 1940s, runs alongside the biography of Matisse, while the presentation of a series of jazz instruments reflects the instrumental collection of the museum.A more intimate section reflects the man behind the painter. During the troubled years that were the background to the creation of Jazz, Matisse had regular discussions with what he called his “chosen audience”, for the most part acquaintances made during his years of training in Fine Art in the studio of Gustave Moreau: Bonnard, Camoin, Marquet, Rouveyre and others. Their correspondence reveals the events underlying the daily life of the painter and his creation.Sylvie Lecat
Henri MATISSE, Jazz, Paris, Published by Tériade, 1947Icare, plate VIII - 42 x 32,5 cmCollection of the Villa Arson, Nice, Gift of Henri Matisse to the Nice School of Decorative Arts in April 1950© Estate of H. Matisse