It took Dr Frederick Mulder CBE and Anne-Françoise Gavanon, the directors of Frederick Mulder Ltd, one of the world’s best known specialists in original European printmaking from 1470 to 1970, five years to convince the owner to depart with a beloved masterpiece. after they set their eyes on a particular Matisse cut-out, after the work had been forgotten in a drawer, unknown to the world.
Eventually the owner decided to sell Mulder not one, but three cut-outs. Even the blockbuster exhibition Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs at the Tate Modern and Museum Of Modern Art in New York did not succeed in bringing many cut-outs to the market, as only three cut-outs have come up for sale since the exhibition ended, and only four in the previous 10 years. This is simply due to the fact that owners of Matisse cut-outs cherish them and rarely let them go.
Therefore the Frederick Mulder discovery presents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see these unique works in one place and discover Matisse’s final artistic triumph. They will be on view at the Frederick Mulder stand A40 at Masterpiece from 25 June to 1 July, the preview is 24 June. The gallery will be showing the works alongside famous and extremely rare Picasso etchings and linocuts.
Two of the three cut-outs were shown in Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs at the Tate Modern and MOMA but the third work has never been seen in public before. All three of the cut-outs include elements of drawing by Matisse; they are original, unique records of his creative process, rich in texture and brightly coloured. The three works are valued in total at more than £2 million.
Anne-Françoise Gavanon stated: “It was an amazing moment when the cut-outs arrived. They were breathtakingly beautiful with the colours as fresh as the day they were made. They had all the qualities of masterpieces.”
The three cut-outs are maquettes for the covers of two books, one of the works is for an exhibition catalogue for the Berggruen Gallery from 1954, the other the book Apollinaire by the writer and artist André Rouveyre. The latter piece is a bold and playful book with a bright blue cover set against Matisse’s stylised white text and yellow flowers. The book’s subject is the influential poet, writer and critic Guillaume Apollinaire.
The artist spent the final chapter of his career ‘carving into colour’, this was Matisse’s term for his spectacular cut-outs. The artist had used the cut-out as a preparatory aid for his paintings for many years, but it was only in his seventies when ill health kept him chair bound that he began to consider his cut-outs as artworks in their own right: he had invented a new medium with an engaging simplicity coupled with incredible creative sophistication.