One big bright star shining over a landscape of organic shapes – this is how Matisse literally cut out his vision of Christmas in his work Nuit de Noel. This year, we wish you a very merry Christmas with Matisse

Henri Matisse (1869 -1964) Nuit de Noel 1952 MoMA

Henri Matisse (1869 -1964)
Nuit de Noel 1952
Gouache on paper, cut and pasted and mounted on board
MoMA
© 2013. The Museum of Modern Art, New York / Scala Florence
© Succession Henri Matisse/DACS 2013

We’ve got a few things to celebrate with you right now. Not only is it the season to be jolly, but we’re pleased to reveal to you, our dear blog readers, that Matisse’s stained-glass window, Nuit de Noel and its maquette will be shown together for the first time in the UK in our Henri Matisse show at Tate Modern next year. And so it seems fitting that this artwork was also features on our annual Director’s Christmas card this festive season.

Here’s a bit more on the story behind Nuit de Noel. The stained-glass Christmas window was commissioned by Life magazine in January 1952 for celebrations at Rockefeller Center at the end of that year, and Matisse made this maquette (above) from cut-and-pasted paper. In March 1952, the finished maquette was given to the stained-glass craftsman, Paul Bony, and four months later the nearly 11ft high window was completed. 

On 8 December 1952, the window arrived in New York and was displayed in time for Christmas Eve in the reception of the Time-Life Building at Rockefeller Center. On the occasion, Matisse wrote to Alfred H Barr Jr, the Director of Museum Collections at the Museum of Modern Art, that the ‘maquette for a stainted-glass window and the window itself are like a musical score and its performance by an orchestra.’ In June 1953, Time gave both the window and the maquette to the Museum of Modern Art.

Neither the glass nor the maquette have ever been seen in the UK before, and the paper cut-outs are so delicate to that it is unlikely that these works will ever be brought together in this way again - so make a date to see them in 2014.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs at Tate Modern opens April 2014 and focuses on the artist’s paper cut-outs made between 1943 and 1954

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