In the summer of 1919, the founder of the Ballets Russes, Serge Diaghilev, and thecomposer Igor Stravinsky invited Matisse to design the ballet Le Chant du Rossignol (The Song of the Nightingale). Based on "The Nightingale" by Hans Christian Andersen from 1844, the plot revolves around a Chinese Emperor's love for the song of a nightingale that ultimately saves him from Death. Matisse created a cohesive suite of stage and costume designs that harmonized with Stravinsky's musical score, Léonide Massine's choreography, and the oriental atmosphere of the narrative. This thesis is the first scholarly project that uses a decorative arts perspective to reveal how textiles, as exemplified by these costumes, informed and shaped Matisse's artistic vision in Le Chant du Rossignol and other projects. By examining costume construction, design process, collaboration with production members, and the aesthetic results of these costumes, this thesis moves beyond descriptive analysis to a deeper understanding of the central role textiles played in Matisse's career, specifically in his unique interpretation of traditional Chinese textiles in Le Chant du Rossignol.
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