The female form was usually his subject and the prints in this exhibition, with the exception of 2 self-portraits, exclusively so. While these subjects are familiar to us from his paintings, they seem to acquire a heightened intimacy in his print making. We are perhaps even more aware of the close working relationship between artist and model, as well as his obsession with pattern acquired as a boy growing up in family descended from weavers in Bohain, a town known for its textiles.
This exhibition focusses on 6 distinct printmaking approaches, employed at different stages during his artistic career - lithography, etching, linocut, woodcut, dry point and aquatint. The earliest works date from the 1900-03 and fittingly begins with a self-portrait in Drypoint, Henri Matisse Gravant, depicting the artist in the intense act of observational drawing. The final works are all aquatints, dating from the late 1940s and displaying the full force of his simplified and dramatic use of line.
Matisse created only 3 woodcuts during his career during a short period from 1906 – 1907, this exhibition is a rare opportunity to see one of them, Petit Bois Clair. Woodcut is of necessity a technique closer to carving than the painterly or linear approach we perhaps more usually associate with Matisse and the artist has responded with a more angular line than the flowing curves of much of his work.
Linocut, whilst in some ways created with a similar process to woodcut, offers the artist a softer working medium with a greater opportunity for curvilinear lines and the prospect of sweeping areas of dramatic negative space. Four seductive works from 1938 powerfully illustrate the impact of this technique, including La Sieste, a masterclass in wonderful economy of line.
Lithography offered scope to render the detail and sumptuous textures of patterns favoured by the artist, realised by him through a special modification of the usual lithographic process. Matisse would ‘draw’ onto transfer paper, placed over the lithographic stone or metal plate, creating in the process greater modulation, shading and depth. Effects employed to considerable effect in works including La Persane (1929).
Etching allowed for a paired down depiction, with his subjects rendered with energy and simple lines which none-the-less capture the essence of his subject, seen here in two works from 1929 - Nu au miroir Marocain and Figure au visage coupé assise dans un intérieur.
Aquatint was a process deployed by Matisse mostly in his later years and was a method particularly suited to the dramatically simplified, graphic qualities of his later work. His technique was unorthodox; Aquatint is usually deployed to add shade and tone to a primary printing technique, such as etching. Matisse used it in an entirely painterly way, with broad brush strokes and black or single colour inks.
The aquatints included in this exhibition are particularly rare, including Grande Masque (1928) - one of only a handful of this small edition held in private hands, rather than a major museum collection.
The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, featuring an essay by John Yau. It can be purchased from Bernard Jacobson Gallery for £25.
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NOTES TO EDITORS
Bernard Jacobson Gallery was founded in 1969 as a publisher and dealer in prints. Over nearly 50 years the gallery has exhibited many great British, American and European artists including: Helen Frankenthaler, Lee Krasner, Peter Lanyon, Robert Motherwell, Bruce McLean, Ben Nicholson, Kenneth Noland, Jules Olitski, James Rosenquist, William Scott, Frank Stella, Pierre Soulages, William Tillyer, and Marc Vaux.