Although the textile designer Zika Ascher had proposed a commission for a wall-hanging to Matisse early in 1946, the artist did not initially accept, and the compositions for the Océanie panels began organically, without a final product in mind.
“Matisse had cut out a swallow from a sheet of writing paper and, as it distressed him to tear up this beautiful shape and throw it away…he put it up on this wall, also using it to cover up a stain the sight of which disturbed him. Over the following weeks other shapes were cut out and put up on the same wall.” (Lydia Delectorskaya quoted in Samantha Friedman, “Game and Endgame” in Exh. Cat. The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs, 2014, p. 126)
By the time Ascher visited Matisse in Paris that summer, the compositions of two distinct panels were complete, and Ascher was tasked with translating the delicate paper cut-outs into screenprint on linen wall-hangings. Developing the massive cut-out panels in screenprint to Matisse’s exacting specifications proved to be a technical challenge and the printed edition of thirty examples of each panel was not completed until 1948.
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