Art, Art Museums, Museum Exhibitions

Henri Matisse’s The Thousand and One Nights, On View at The Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, through July 15, 2012

[Source, WSJ]  The 1940s were not kind to Henri Matisse. During World War II, Gestapo agents brutally tortured his daughter, and complications from an intestinal operation weakened him and left him permanently wheelchair-bound.

As painting became more difficult, he focused intently on the sleek, stylized paper cutouts he had first started experimenting with in the 1930s, using scissors to create the sinewy shapes and swaths of color that he could no longer render directly on canvas.

One of the most beloved pieces Matisse made during those last few years is an abstract take on “One Thousand and One Nights,”  The piece—a 4½-by-12-foot cutout crafted in 1950 from gouache-stained paper—goes on rare view this weekend through July 15 at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. The museum acquired the work in the 1970s but exhibits it only occasionally because of its extreme sensitivity to light.

“The Thousand and One Nights” is divided into five main panels. The first panel, a lantern with smoke seeping out of its spout, denotes dusk. The second panel has been interpreted as a precursor of sorts to the artist’s stark and curvaceous “Blue Nudes,” cutouts from 1952 and, perhaps, a reference to Scheherazade herself. Nighttime is suggested through stars, and a second lantern, this one black and without smoke, denotes a rapidly approaching dawn. The final panel, an ovular design with a thick red streak down its center, has been read as both the rising sun and as a reference to the would-be Persian queen’s sexuality. The text pasted across the upper right-hand corner reads “Elle vit paraître le matin / Elle se tut discrètement” (“She saw morning appear / She discreetly grew silent.”)

Read the entire article here.

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