Inspiration: The Paper Costumes of Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse, famous for his brilliantly-coloured paintings and flamboyant line, designed The Song of the Nightingale for Diaghilev in 1920.

His overall scheme was restrained and used black, white and yellow for dramatic emphasis. The costumes, made of paper and created in multiples, became part of a fluctuating pattern of stylised shape and colour.

Henri Matisse had no interest in ballet until he saw the success of Andre Derain’s The Magical Toyshop (1919). He was finally convinced to do the designs for The Song of the Nightingale after Igor Stravinsky played excerpts from the ballet’s score and Léonide Massine, whom Matisse admired, was commissioned to design the choreography.

In his designs for the set and costumes for The Song of the Nightingale, Matisse simplified the elements of line and decoration, reducing them to their essence.

The Paper Costumes of Henri Matisse
Art Is Life


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