Henri Matisse cutout sold for $1.5m in New York auction

A Henri Matisse cutout sold for $1.5m at Bonhams' impressionist and modern art sale in New York yesterday.

That’s a solid increase on its $1.2m estimate.

Matisse cutout Bonhams

Arbre de niege dates to 1947 

The piece, titled Arbre de niege (1947), is from a celebrated series of works Matisse began work on after he was diagnosed with abdominal cancer in 1941.

His failing health left him confined to a wheelchair, making painting near impossible.

Instead, he began creating collages using coloured paper. 

Known as cutouts, they are now among his most recognisable and celebrated works.

As William O'Reilly, Bonhams' vice president of impressionist and modern art, explained: "Henri Matisse's cut paper compositions are in many ways the culmination of his lifetime of artistic experiment.

“Their strength and innovation are the result of his restless quest to describe pure form and pure colour.”

In many ways the cutouts were the next logical step in Matisse’s career. He’d started out as a figurative painter but over the decades had moved deeper into colour and abstraction.

Matisse himself said: “By creating these coloured paper cutouts it seems to me that I am happily anticipating things to come.

“I don't think that I have ever found such balance as I have in creating [them].

“But I know that it will only be much later that people will realise to what extent the work I am doing today is in step with the future.”

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