Matisse’s Art Books


Posted June 2, 2011 in Arts & Culture Features

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If you’re a fan of the Chester Beatty Library, you’ll know that their collection of artistically important books – from the opulent and intricate to the ascetic and contemplative – is one of the world’s most enviable. But though it’s the historic religious texts that are the Library’s most celebrated, the book as an art form also reached an aesthetic climax in the twentieth-century. Appropriated by the Dadaists and Futurists as a new medium of expression, the Art Book lent itself perfectly to printmakers and graphic artists, as well as falling in line with the ideals of Modernism. None of this was lost on Henri Matisse, whose Art Books are the subject of a new temporary exhibition at the Chester Beatty, running until September 25th. Works on show include the famous Jazz – a 1948 collection of around one hundred prints made from paper cut-outs. The bold and colourful graphic style of these works has lead to them being widely reproduced as posters: many, such as the distinctive Icarus, have become iconic images in their own right. An illustrated version of Ulysses will also be on show as part of the exhibition, alongside many other eminent works – most of which have never been on public display in Europe before.

Words: Rosa Abbott

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