0209 Symbolism and Allusion in Matisse’s Jazz

  • Rodney T. Swan (Author)
    University of New South Wales, Sydney

    Dr Rodney T. Swan is an Adjunct Academic at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. He holds a Master’s degree in Arts Administration (2011) and was awarded a PhD in June 2016, with a thesis titled “Resistance and Resurgence; the cultural and political dynamic of the livre d’artiste and the German Occupation of France”. His research analyses the adoption of the French artist’s book as a strategic instrument of cultural resistance in occupied France, specifically examining the wide spectrum of innovative codes and symbols that artists camouflaged in the images of their books to communicate their messages. In further research, through extensive electronic analysis, he has identified an unattributed resurgence of the artist’s illustrated book in post-war France. Rodney has written extensively and presented numerous papers on artist’s books. In his previous life, he was in business and has a BSc(Hons) (Engineering) and a MTech(OR).

Identifiers (Article)


Henri Matisse’s images in Jazz, created during the disruption of the German Occupation of France, were embedded with symbols of cultural resistance, while his text, which he composed after the defeat of the Germans, reflected the transition to a post-Liberation France. The wartime symbols and allusions camouflaged within these images are readily revealed when consideration is given to two carefully devised interpretative filters that Matisse created. The first, a circus theme embodied in its original title Cirque, and the second, the intricate captions that Matisse accorded to each image. Enhancing the visual quality of his handwritten text with his richly drawn arabesques, he created a new text-image dynamic which gave primacy to the image. The paper reveals a congruency between the text in Jazz, which he declared had no relationship to the image, and the essay he wrote at the same time, "How I made my books”, where he articulated a principle he adopted for his other books, the rapport between the image and the literary character of the text.


Henri Matisse, Jazz, livre d'artiste, paper cut-outs, text-image relationship, Tériade, circus theme