"You want to mutilate my work."

That's what Henri Matisse said after a prolonged interview with a Swiss art critic that spanned several days in Lyon and Nice.

Matisse was incensed when he discovered the editing process had reduced the text from 310 pages to 260 pages.

Next Matisse was angry about the paper quality selected by the prospective publisher of the extensive interview, Skira. Then Matisse wanted to rewrite parts of the text. He also wanted to censor other passages. Ultimately, while admitting his predilection to depression, Matisse decided to kibosh the publication procedure entirely.

Matisse died in 1954. The revealing transcript remained the private archive of the interviewer Pierre Courthion until his papers were acquired by the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles in the 1980s. Some biographers had access, but the Matisse's ancestors respected the publication ban.

Now the "lost interview" has been edited for publication by Serge Guilbaut, professor emeritus of art history at the University of British Columbia.

"To publish a book rejected by its author is not an easy task," Guilbaut told The Observer in July of 2013, "It took not only many years but also many conversations ...Claude Duthuit, grandson of Matisse, was not keen to have all this published because this would contradict Matisse's wishes. But, when he realised that the Getty had the definitive text ready to be published, he thought that it was an interesting historical document. He wrote an introduction."

Here, according to publicity materials, is the rest of the story behind Chatting with Henri Matisse: The Lost 1941 Interview (Getty Research Institute $45 U.S.), featuring that 1941 interview with Henri Matisse conducted by Swiss art critic Pierre Courthion, translated Chris Miller, and edited and introduced by Serge Guilbaut, originally from southern France.

"In 1941 the Swiss art critic Pierre Courthion interviewed Henri Matisse while the artist was in bed recovering from a serious operation. It was an extensive interview, seen at the time as a vital assessment of Matisse's career and set to be published by Albert Skira's then newly established Swiss press. After months of complicated discussions between Courthion and Matisse, and just weeks before the book was to come out-the artist even had approved the cover design-Matisse suddenly refused its publication. A typescript of the interview now resides in Courthion's papers at the Getty Research Institute.

"This rich conversation, conducted during the Nazi occupation of France, is published for the first time in this volume, where it appears both in English translation and in the original French version. Matisse unravels memories of his youth and his life as a bohemian student in Gustave Moreau's atelier. He recounts his experience with collectors, including Albert C. Barnes. He discusses fame, writers, musicians, politicians, and, most fascinatingly, his travels."

Chatting with Henri Matisse contains a preface by Claude Duthuit, Matisse's grandson, and essays by Yve-Alain Bois and Laurence Bertrand Dorlťac. The book also includes unpublished correspondence and other original documents related to Courthion's interview and abounds with details about avant-garde life, tactics, and artistic creativity in the first half of the twentieth century.


Getty Research Institute: Conversation with Tyler Green and Serge Guilbaut
November 17, 2013
Getty Center



How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art: Abstract Expressionism, Freedom, and the Cold War (University of Chicago Press, 1983). Translated by Arthur Goldhammer. Also published in Spanish (Madrid: 1990) and in French (Jacqueline Chambon, 1998).

Reconstructing Modernism: Art in New York, Paris, and Montreal 1945-1964 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1990). Editor.

Abstrakter Expressionismus Freiheit und Kalter Krieg (Dresden: Verlag der Kunst, 1997).

Theodore Gericault, The Alien Body: Tradition in Chaos (Vancouver: Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, 1997). Co-editor.

Voir, ne pas voir, faut voir (Harmonia Mundi, 1993; Jacqueline Chambon, 1998)

[Serge Guilbaut also wrote the foreword to Tapies: Complete Works Volume VI: 1986-1990 (Ediciones Poligrafa S.A., 2002)]

Modernism and modernity: the Vancouver conference papers (Halifax: Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 2004). Co-editor.

Los espejismos de la imagen en los lindes del siglo XXI (Akal Ediciones, 2009).

Chatting with Henri Matisse: The Lost 1941 Interview (Getty Center 2013). Editor.

[UBC 2014] "Art"



L.es L., M.es L.(Bordeaux), PhD (UCLA)

Serge Guilbaut is professor emeritus of Art History at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. He has written on modern and contemporary art and, in particular, on cultural and political relations between the United States and France. He has published How New York Stole the Idea of Modern Art: Abstract Expressionism, Freedom and the Cold War (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1983; translated into five languages), Voir, Ne pas Voir, Faut Voir: Essais sur la perception et la non-perception des oeuvres (NÓmes: Jacqueline Chambon, 1994), Sobre la desaparic√≠on de ciertas obras de arte (Mexico City: Curare, 1995), and Los espejismos de la imagen, Essays on contemporary art (Madrid: Editions Akal, 2009).

He has also edited several other works: Modernism and Modernity (Halifax, NS: Press of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, 1983, 2006); Reconstructing Modernism: Art in New York, Paris, and Montreal, 1945-1964 (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1990); co-edited with John O'Brian and Bruce Barber, Voices of Fire: Art Rage, Power, and the State (on Barnett Newman; Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996); co-edited with Laurent Gervereau, Laurence Bertrand Dorleac, and Gťrard Monnier, Oý va l'histoire de l'art contemporain? (Paris: L'image, 1996); Chatting with Henri Matisse: The Lost 1941 Interview (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2013).

He has also organized several exhibitions: Thťodore Gťricault: The Alien Body, Tradition in Chaos in 1997, Up Against the Wall Mother Poster (on posters from 1968) in 1999, and Be-Bomb: The Transatlantic War of Images and All That Jazz, 1946-1956 at MACBA in Barcelona in 2007 (critics' prize of the Association of Catalan Art Critics for the best exhibition of the year).

He has participated as an artist in several exhibitions, such as Drawings (Vancouver, 1996) and Browser (Artropolis 97, Vancouver Art Gallery, 1997). He also had his own art retrospective in 2012 in Vancouver called Retro-Perspective (art and performances from 1965 to 2012).

Guilbaut's credits as an actor include the role of Elie Faur, the famous 1930s French art historian, in the film A Banquet in Tetlapayac (relating the filming of Eisenstein's film ¬°Que Viva Mťxico!) by Olivier Debroise. The film was presented at the Vancouver International Film Festival, in addition to many venues in Europe and America. Film by Olivier Debroise, with Cuauthemoc Medina, Sally Stein, and Andrea Fraser (October 2000).