Room 3: Jazz

Matisse’s designs for an artist’s book show the development of the cut paper technique, with more intricate shapes and complicated layering.

The original idea was for Matisse to illustrate poems, but the flowing hand-written notes he made as he worked on the cut-outs were eventually chosen as the accompanying text instead. Here you can compare the original cut-out models (‘maquettes’) and the finished book, printed using a stencil method.

The publisher, Tériade, came up with the title Jazz. It is unrelated to the subject matter of the individual images, which are mainly scenes from the circus or theatre, but Matisse liked the link with the improvisational way the works were made.

Jazz was a turning point, enabling Matisse to see his cut-outs as art works in their own right. Disappointed that in the published book the cut-outs seemed to lose the contrast of different surfaces layered on top of each other, Matisse said that printing ‘removes their sensitivity’.

Family activity

Matisse loved dance and music. In room 2 you can see his designs for the costumes and set for a ballet. His book – called Jazz – is in room 3.

Jazz musicians often add their own creative response to a tune rather than strictly following a score: improvising. Matisse felt this was what he was doing making this book.

Choose an artwork - do different colours or parts of the picture make different sounds or inspire different movements?

Download the full guide for families [PDF 535 Kb] and bring it with you on your visit to the exhibition, or you can pick up a copy at the exhibition entrance.