Dans cette exposition, Agnès Thurnauer a souhaité s’intéresser au lien entre illustration et peinture, entre édition et tableau, qu’Henri Matisse n’a eu de cesse de travailler. Pratiquant l’écriture quotidiennement, l’artiste est aussi une grande lectrice et le livre est souvent pour elle le premier lieu de ses tableaux. Cet attachement résonne tout particulièrement avec l’œuvre de Matisse et sa conception du livre comme espace architectural décloisonnant hiérarchies et genres artistiques. L’exposition a pour fil directeur les cinquante lettres que l’artiste a adressées à Matisse, entre avril 2021 et janvier 2022, après une première visite au musée.

Thursday 1 April 2021

Dear Henri,

I have left the ground and the sky is blue, the plane’s wing cuts into the blue like your scissors split a gouache-covered paper.
My heart is full of joy. There is this letter I addressed to you twenty years ago, during my exhibition in the studio where you had painted your Dances – forgotten and resurfacing like a torrent when Claudine visited Ivry last month. Where had this address been buried? These dedicated words? When the continuation of your companionship was so re-invigorated at the time of the Paires et Séries exhibition at the Centre Pompidou. I remember that vertical leap when, late one evening, while reading an article on her exhibition, I came across the photo that Cécile Debray had chosen to illustrate it. Your exhibition at Maeght in 1945, where you showed The Dream surrounded by fourteen photographs of the different states of the painting in progress, printed in the same format, framed in the same way, sharing the status of finished works – like a set. I felt concussed! I remember immediately writing of my amazement and joy to the curator, whom I didn’t know. Then a sleepless night, so alert was I to the awakening triggered by this new, intensely conceptual approach to your work. The awakening of that night became a vigil. A marker that gives even more depth and openness to your pictorial abscissae and ordinates. This hanging arrangement cuts a hole in time, what it proposed emerges as current, profound and enlightening as ever.
The plane is already beginning its descent.
I have left behind the announcement of the new lockdown to go towards you, who represents, to the contrary, one of the largest apertures in painting that history has given us. I don’t know the museum. I don’t know what I will find, what I will see: I simply want to initially steep myself entirely in your oeuvre.

We have just landed.
See you at your place.