During the last decade of his long life, Henri Matisse produced some 270 paper cutouts. Although they constitute independent works, many also served as maquettes for projects as different in scale and purpose as book illustrations or designs for liturgical vestments and stained-glass windows. During the 1930s, Matisse had already used paper models to help him compose his paintings. Then, after two serious operations in 1941 left him in poor health, the artist worked more and more with paper cutouts—something he could do sitting up in bed or in an armchair. With scissors, Matisse cut shapes from sheets of paper that his assistants first had colored with gouache. These would be pinned into position and, once finalized, glued onto a white or multicolored ground. After the late 1940s, when the size of these cutouts increased so much that they had to be executed on the wall, he would direct his assistants as to the specific placement of the shapes and they would carry out his vision.
By 1951, the artist had stopped painting and devoted himself exclusively to making large-scale paper cutouts and drawings. Later compositions, such as this one, focused on larger, bolder, and more simplified shapes. Here, the abstracted "snow flowers" are a mixture of white plant and petal forms, placed against a patchwork of bold color. Although they appear to be wholly imaginary, one small plant growing up from the bottom center edge suggests that Matisse's title and his shapes were inspired by the snowdrop, a small frosty-white, bell-shaped flower that blooms in early spring.
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Artist:Henri Matisse (French, Le Cateau-Cambrésis 1869–1954 Nice)
Medium:Watercolor and gouache on cut and pasted papers
Dimensions:68 1/2 x 31 3/4 in. (174 x 80.6 cm)
Credit Line:Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection, 1998
Inscription: Signed, dated, and inscribed (lower right): Fleurs de Neige Henri Matisse / 1951
the artist, Nice (1951–d. 1954); his widow, Amélie Matisse (1954–d. 1958); their son, Pierre Matisse, New York (from 1958; his gift to Pierre Noël Matisse); [his son, Pierre Noël Matisse, Los Angeles, in 1960]; private collection, Paris (in 1966); [Galerie d'Art Moderne, Basel, until 1968; sold on July 25, 1968 to Sperry]; Mrs. Vicci Sperry, Los Angeles (1968–at least 1971); [Acquavella Galleries, New York and Richard Gray, Chicago, until 1975; sold on October 8, 1975 to Gelman]; Jacques and Natasha Gelman, Mexico City and New York (1975–his d. 1986); Natasha Gelman, New York (1986–d. 1998; her bequest to MMA)
Kunsthalle Bern. "Henri Matisse, 1950–1954: Les grandes gouaches découpées," July 25–September 20, 1959, no. 3 (as "Fleurs de neige," lent by a private collection).
Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. "Henri Matisse: Les grandes gouaches découpées," April 29–June 20, 1960, no. 4 (as "Sneeuwbloemen").
Paris. Musée des Arts Décoratifs. "Henri Matisse: Les Grandes gouaches découpées," March 22–May 15, 1961, no. 9 (as "Fleurs de neige," 1950, lent by a private collection).
Museum of Modern Art, New York. "The Last Works of Henri Matisse: Large Cut Gouaches," October 17–December 3, 1961, no. 5 (lent by a private collection).
Art Institute of Chicago. "The Last Works of Henri Matisse: Large Cut Gouaches," January 10–February 13, 1962, no. 5.
San Francisco Museum of Art. "The Last Works of Henri Matisse: Large Cut Gouaches," March 12–April 22, 1962, no. 5.
Los Angeles. UCLA Art Galleries. "Henri Matisse: Retrospective 1966," January 5–February 27, 1966, no. 338 (lent by a private collection, Paris).
Art Institute of Chicago. "Henri Matisse: Retrospective 1966," March 11–April 24, 1966, no. 338.
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. "Henri Matisse: Retrospective 1966," May 11–June 26, 1966, no. 338.
Baltimore Museum of Art. "From El Greco to Pollock: Early and Late Works by European and American Artists," October 22–December 8, 1968, no. 127 (as "Fleurs de neige," lent by Mrs. Albert Sperry).
Buffalo. Albright-Knox Art Gallery. "Color and Field: 1890–1970," September 15–November 1, 1970, no. 34 (as "Fleurs de Neige," lent by Mrs. Vicci Sperry).
Dayton Art Institute. "Color and Field: 1890–1970," November 20, 1970–January 10, 1971, no. 34.
Cleveland Museum of Art. "Color and Field: 1890–1970," February 4–March 28, 1971, no. 34.
New York. Acquavella Galleries, Inc. "Henri Matisse," November 2–December 1, 1973, no. 57 (as "Fleurs de neige," lent anonymously).
National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C. "Henri Matisse Paper Cut-Outs," September 10–October 23, 1977, no. 117 (lent by Mr. and Mrs. Jacques Gelman).
Detroit Institute of Arts. "Henri Matisse Paper Cut-Outs," November 23, 1977–January 8, 1978, no. 117.
St. Louis Art Museum. "Henri Matisse Paper Cut-Outs," January 29–March 12, 1978, no. 117.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Twentieth-Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection," December 12, 1989–April 1, 1990, unnumbered cat. (p. 249).
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Twentieth-Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection," April 19–July 15, 1990, unnumbered cat.
Martigny. Fondation Pierre Gianadda. "De Matisse à Picasso: Collection Jacques et Natasha Gelman," June 18–November 1, 1994, unnumbered cat. (p. 273).
Le Cateau-Cambrésis. Musée Matisse. "Matisse, His Art and His Textiles: The Fabric of Dreams," October 23, 2004–January 25, 2005, no. 80.
London. Royal Academy of Arts. "Matisse, His Art and His Textiles: The Fabric of Dreams," March 5–May 30, 2005, no. 80.
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Matisse, His Art and His Textiles: The Fabric of Dreams," June 23–September 25, 2005, no. 80.
London. Tate Modern. "Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs," April 17–September 7, 2014, no. 94.
Museum of Modern Art, New York. "Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs," October 25, 2014–February 10, 2015, no. 94.
Pierre Reverdy and Georges Duthuit. The Last Works of Henri Matisse. New York, 1958, ill. p. 21 (color) [originally published as special issue of "Verve" no. 35/36, 1958].
Jacques Lassaigne. Matisse. Lausanne, 1959, p. 122, calls it "Snowflowers".
Jacques Lassaigne. "Grandes gouaches découpées de Matisse. La Peinture sans limites." Les Lettres françaises no. 785 (August 6–12, 1959), ill. p. 10.
Jacques Lassaigne inHenri Matisse: Les Grandes gouaches découpées. Ed. François Mathey. Exh. cat., Musée des Arts Décoratifs. Paris, 1961, pp. 19, 22, 47, no. 9.
Alexander Watt. "Paris Commentary." Studio 162 (July 1961), ill. p. 23.
Henry J. Seldis. "The Magic of Matisse." Apollo 83 (April 1966), fig. 15.
Nancy Marmer. "Matisse and the Strategy of Decoration." Artforum 4 (March 1966), ill. p. 33.
Frank Anderson Trapp inFrom El Greco to Pollock: Early and Late Works by European and American Artists. Ed. Gertrude Rosenthal. Exh. cat., Baltimore Museum of Art. Baltimore, 1968, p. 151, no. 127, ill.
Priscilla Colt. Color and Field: 1890–1970. Exh. cat., Albright-Knox Art Gallery. Buffalo, 1970, pp. 12, 14, no. 34, ill. p. 41.
Hilton Kramer. "The Glories of Matisse Are Displayed." New York Times (November 3, 1973), p. 25.
Jack Cowart. "Matisse's Artistic Probe: The Collage." Arts Magazine 49 (May 1975), p. 55.
Thomas B. Hess. "How to Cut into Color, or the Last Miracles of Henri Matisse." New York Magazine 10 (September 26, 1977), ill. p. 63 (color).
Charles W. Millard. "The Matisse Cut-Outs." Hudson Review 31 (Summer 1978), p. 324.
Jean Guichard-Meili. Matisse: Paper Cutouts. New York, 1984, pp. 28, 61, colorpl. 20, locates it in a private collection.
Pierre Schneider inTwentieth-Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection. Ed. William S. Lieberman. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1989, p. 28.
Sabine Rewald inTwentieth-Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection. Ed. William S. Lieberman. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1989, pp. 248–49, 306, ill. (color and bw).
William S. Lieberman inTwentieth-Century Modern Masters: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection. Ed. William S. Lieberman. Exh. cat., The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1989, pp. 2–3.
Judith H. Dobrzynski. "20th Century Art Treasures Are Left to Met." New York Times (May 6, 1998), pp. A1, B6.
Pierre Schneider. Matisse. Rev. ed. (English ed., 1984). Paris, 2002, p. 696.
Xavier-Gilles Néret. Henri Matisse Cut-outs: Drawing with Scissors. Ed. Gilles Néret and Xavier-Gilles Néret. Cologne, 2009, ill. p. 274 (color).
Anna Somers Cocks. "Art from Daghestan that Inspired Matisse... Elaborate Embroideries Provided Patterns for the Cut-outs." Art Newspaper no. 218 (November 2010), ill. p. 11 (color).
Robert Chenciner inKaitag: Arte per la Vita. Art for Life. Ed. Carlo Scaramuzza. Exh. cat., Museo di Storia Naturale, Pordenone. Milan, 2010, ill. p. 38 (color).
Mali Morris. "Preview: Cutting It Fine." Royal Academy of Arts Magazine no. 122 (Spring 2014), pp. 20–21, ill. (color).
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