'Henri Matisse: Improvisation,' which opened today at the Monterey Museum of Art showcases his "cut-outs," the masterpieces of his old age. Matisse is one of the most celebrated artists of the twentieth century, whose works were at the forefront of artistic innovation throughout his long life.
Vast in scale (though not always in size), lush and rigorous in color, his cutouts are among the most admired and influential works of Matisse's entire career. They belong with the grandest affirmations of the élan vital in Western art.
In 1941 Matisse was diagnosed with cancer and, following surgery, he started using a wheelchair. He was bed ridden for long periods of time but his extraordinary creativity was not stopped for long.
“Une seconde vie”, a second life, was what he called the last fourteen years of his life.
His new lease of life led to an extraordinary burst of expression, the culmination of half a century of work, but also to a radical renewal that made it possible for him to create what he had always struggled for: “I have needed all that time to reach the stage where I can say what I want to say.”
With the aid of Lydia Delectorskaya, his Russian born assistant, he set about creating cut paper collages, often on a enormous scale, called gouaches découpés. By maneuvering scissors through prepared sheets of paper, he inaugurated a new phase of his career.
The exhibit includes twenty brilliantly colored prints based on motifs taken largely from the circus, the music hall, folklore, and travel, as well as twenty pages of Matisse’s freely hand-written text. Matisse’s use of hand-colored and cut paper, a technique he invented, allowed him to work with colors directly and to apply them to the surface.
Show ends May 19, 2013