Rare Books, Exhibitions, Vitrine

Matisse and Verve

Submitted by Marsha Morrow on

In 1937 art critic and publisher Tériade contacted his longtime friend Henri Matisse for help with his latest project, an art magazine he called Verve. High-quality lithographic color reproductions of artworks would set Verve apart from Tériade’s other publications Cahiers d’art and Minotaure. Tériade wanted this new venture to attract a wider audience and make artwork more accessible to the general public.

Art for the masses is represented throughout all 38 issues of Verve, whichhad significant influence in that it featured art for art’s sake, not as an accessory to an editorial vision, as a narrowly conceived commission, or as a luxury item. Works by Matisse, Braque, Bonnard, and Rouault are featured on the covers while whole issues are devoted to the works of Picasso, Braque, Matisse, Bonnard, and Chagall. In its first issue, Verve made news when it printed Dora Maar’s historic photograph of Guernica in Picasso’s studio.

The most featured artist in Verve is Henri Matisse, who is considered one of the most revolutionary and influential artists of the 20th century. His dramatic use of paper cutouts, or gouaches découpés, is featured on Verve’s first cover, which depicts a nude drawn in ink surrounded by paper cutouts. He also designed the covers of five additional issues, nos. 8, 13, 21/22, and 23. The influence of Matisse in Verve is found throughout, either in the form of original lithographs created especially for the magazine or in color reproductions of his artwork from other sources. 

The last volume with Matisse’s direct input was no. 35/36, Last Works of Matisse, 1950–1954. This volume features many of his final drawings and 40 of his famous gouaches découpés. Proofs for the issue were printed in early 1954 under Matisse’s direction; the issue was published in 1958 and is considered a loving homage to his long and illustrious career. The magazine ceased publication in 1960 after 38 issues. The Ingalls Library is fortunate to have a complete run of the publication. With Painting the Modern Garden: Monet to Matisse opening at the museum in less than a month, we wanted to highlight this vividly illustrated Parisian art magazine from our rarebook collection. A selection of Verve volumes will be displayed in the library vitrine through the fall.