Juliette Rizzi & Flavia Frigeri interview Jacqueline Duhême who served for two years as an assistant to Henri Matisse. Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs are on view at Tate Modern through September 17, 2014.
Speaking about Matisse's cut-outs, Duhême recalls: "I witnessed their birth. Matisse would draw in a sketchbook: birds, flowers, fruit… things that inspired him. (He also painted with a feather and Chinese ink or black gouache on white paper to make black stains that would become fruits or a face.) Then he would discard the drawings and cut the paper into a shape that had stuck in his head. He would play with the different colours. It was like drawing, but with scissors. At some point he became so skilful that he didn’t need to draw the shape: he would cut directly into the paper, directly into the colour. I found this extraordinary. It was like making a sculpture. There was sensuality in the cutting, and one could feel the passion geared into getting the shape he wanted. Sometimes he became furious and would throw everything out because he felt that it wasn’t working. ...we lived inside the work! It was out of the question to get a separate room in which to keep everything. It was all around him. He had his bed with something to lean on, a lot of cushions, his drawing board in front of him. He would bang on it when he was not happy. Everything had to take place around him or on the wall in front. And he had a fishing rod to orchestrate what was happening and give me directions."