Bechtler Museum of Modern Art Presents Exhibition of Art Books by Modern Master Henri Matisse

MARCH 01, 2015

Widely regarded as one of the most important painters of the 20th century, Henri Matisse influenced a number of art movements, artists and schools of thought. The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art presents the exhibition The Art Books of Henri Matisse February 27 through September 7, 2015.  

Drawn from the Bank of America Collection, The Art Books of Henri Matisse features 80 framed original illustrations with text from four of Matisse’s most significant artist books. 

“It’s important to provide our communities with access to engaging cultural experiences,” said Charles Bowman, North Carolina and Charlotte market president, Bank of America. “We are excited to share this exhibit from the Bank of America Collection with the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art to help individuals and families discover a world-renowned artist and connect them with a premier modern art museum.”

Matisse (French, 1869–1954) is acknowledged as one of the founders of Fauvism. During his 60-year career, he created a body of work that comprised paintings, drawings, prints, cut-outs and sculpture. Starting in the 1930s, Matisse devoted much of his time to printmaking and book illustration. Illustrated books, which were known as livre d'artise' (artist's book), became popular in France around the turn of the 20th century. These books were deluxe, limited editions, meant to be collected and admired as works of art, as well as read. Matisse created a total of 12 books, 11 of which were widely reproduced, and one that was made exclusively for his family. Charlotte-based Bank of America owns four of Matisse’s books and through the bank’s Art in Our Communities® program, has loaned the books to the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art for this exhibition.

“Artists’ books are an important aspect of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art collection so it is fortunate that the museum was able to partner with Bank of America on this remarkable show of significant art books created by one of the preeminent artists of the modern era,” said John Boyer, President and CEO of the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art.   

The artworks on view in The Art Books of Henri Matisse exhibition are prints and collages from the following books:

--Poésies de Stéphane Mallarmé (The Poetry of Stéphane Mallarmé), 1932
--Pasiphaé—Chant de Minos (Les Crétois) (Pasiphaé—Song of Minos [The Cretans
]), 1944
--Jazz, 1947
--Poèmes de Charles d’Orléans (Poems of Charles d’Orléan
s), 1950    

Jazz is considered one of the great illustrated books of the 20th century; Matisse created both the text and illustrations. Based on imagery from the circus and music halls, the boldly colored illustrations are derived from Matisse’s cut-outs. Although he had devised the art form years earlier, it wasn’t until the 1940s that Matisse focused on cut-outs. He perfected the technique in the final years of his long career when, confined to a wheelchair and suffering from arthritis, he found it difficult to paint. In a delightful calligraphy, Matisse expressed his thoughts on the creative process and the inspiration of music.

The Art Books of Henri Matisse presents an opportunity to look closely at form, color and line as well as the printmaking process. Matisse regarded the prints he created for art books as an extension of drawing. The same flowing lines that characterized so many of his paintings carried over to the printmaking medium and related illustrations. Among the printmaking techniques he used were etching, linoleum cuts and lithography.

While there are many shared elements between Matisse’s painting and his book illustration, there were some constraints that informed his process and approach. In book illustration, the goal was to establish a relationship between drawing and the existing text. Working within the defined space of a book also created practical limitations not typical in painting. Visual images can be absorbed instantaneously, while the absorption of text requires a slower process of reading and analysis. For this reason, book illustration is valuable not only as an art form but as a unique combination of the written works and visual art.

In addition to the core group of Matisse works, a limited number of artists’ books from the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art collection are also on view in the exhibition.

Exhibition-Related Programs

March 16: Hands-on art workshop exploring Matisse’s paper cut-out process

April 13: Modern dance performance and discussion based on Jazz, Matisse's most celebrated art book

May 11: Gallery talk by ceramic artist Alex Matisse, the great-grandson of Henri Matisse

Exhibition Sponsors 

The Art Books of Henri Matisse is generously underwritten by Bank of America.

Significant funding for the exhibition is provided by Childress Klein and Ernst & Young. Additional funding comes from Rodgers. The exhibition’s media sponsor is WFAE 90.7 FM.

About the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art

The Bechtler Museum of Modern Art is dedicated to the exhibition of mid-20th-century modern art. It is named after the family of Andreas Bechtler who assembled and inherited a collection created by seminal figures in modernism. The museum is located at Levine Center for the Arts, 420 South Tryon Street, Charlotte. Operating hours are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.; Sunday 12 p.m. - 5 p.m.; closed Tuesdays. For museum details visit

ARTWORK IMAGES: Artwork images from The Art Books of Henri Matisse are available upon request. Contact Pam Davis, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art Director of Communications and Marketing at or office: 704.353.9204 / mobile 704.975.2363

MEDIA CONTACT: Pam Davis, Bechtler Museum of Modern Art Director of Communications and Marketing,, office: 704.353.9204 / mobile 704.975.2363

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704.353.9204 (office)

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