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Henri Matisse



Balance in Prints
Henri Matisse, French (1869-1954), <i>Three Apples and Plate</i>, 1914-1915, monotype print ©Succession H. Matisse, Paris / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
zoom Henri Matisse, French (1869-1954), Three Apples and Plate, 1914-1915, monotype print ©Succession H. Matisse, Paris / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

Besides paintings and sculptures, Matisse also produced more than eight hundred prints. Like sculpture, printmaking provided relaxation or distraction for him during especially challenging periods of painting. His prints often reflect the themes of paintings he was working on at the time. Nearly all are black-and-white, but they were printed by a variety of methods.

Matisse particularly liked to make transfer lithographs. Instead of drawing directly on the lithographic stone, he drew the image on a sheet of paper and then transferred it to the stone for printing. A lithographic print is the reverse of the image on the stone. One advantage of transfer lithography is that the printed image looks the same as the original drawing. Matisse also created monotypes. These are one-of-a-kind single prints made by coating a copper printing plate with ink, drawing on the inked plate, and then carefully printing the image onto a sheet of paper.

In the 1930s and 1940s, Matisse made many prints as book illustrations. However, he did not simply translate the author’s words into pictures; he tried instead to depict his own feelings about the text. Matisse also oversaw the design and layout of the books he illustrated. His attention to the details of a printed book can be seen in Poésies, by Stéphane Mallarmé. In all, Matisse illustrated eleven books.


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1. This page shows the kind of book illustrations Matisse created.
Scene, page from Stéphane Mallarmé’s Poésies, 1932, etching, letterpress ©Succession H. Matisse, Paris / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
2. Besides lithographs and monotypes, Matisse also made linoleum cuts, in which the image is carved into a block of linoleum.
The Embrace, No. 4, 1943-44, linoleum cut ©Succession H. Matisse, Paris / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
3. This image was printed by transfer lithography. Instead of drawing on the lithographic stone, Matisse drew on paper and transferred the image to the stone, where it appeared in reverse. Printing reversed the image again, so the print looked just like the original drawing.
Persian Woman, 1929, lithograph ©Succession H. Matisse, Paris / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

 

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November 2006