Henri Matisse, Two Masks (The Tomato), 1947, gouache on paper, 18¾ by 20 3/8 inches. Mr. and Mrs. Donald B. Marron, New York. © 2014 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

An exhibition opening this week at New York's Museum of Modern Art is devoted to the beloved late-career work of a French modern master. "Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs" (Oct. 12, 2014-Feb. 8, 2015) presents Matisse's move from painting to cut-and-painted paper. The artist described the process of making these collages as "cutting directly into color" and "drawing with scissors."

Using only white paper, gouache and a pair of scissors, Matisse created immersive murals populated by plants, animals, geometric figures and shapes. In addition to large-scale works, he employed the cut-out technique to design book covers, stage sets and costumes for the ballet, and illustrated books. Approximately 100 cut-outs, along with a selection of drawings, books, stained glass and textiles will be on view.

The exhibition was born of an initiative to conserve The Swimming Pool (1952), the centerpiece of the show. Acquired by MoMA in 1975, the monumental work is the only site-specific cut-out, created for the artist's dining room in his apartment in Nice, France. After witnessing divers at a pool in Cannes, Matisse was inspired to create his own immersive environment, declaring to his studio assistant and secretary, "I will make my own pool." The multi-year conservation process, which began in 2008, sought to bring out the piece's original color balance. The Swimming Pool will also be installed at the height for which Matisse intended it (prior displays at MoMA placed the work considerably lower than the height documented in photographs of the original installation). It now returns to the gallery after more than 20 years in storage.

Theshow was co-organized with Tate Modern, London, where the cut-outs received over 560,000 visitors when on view this summer, making it the most popular exhibition ever held at the museum. The exhibition is curated by Nicholas Cullinan, curator at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (and formerly of the Tate), along with, from the Tate, director Nicholas Serota and assistant curator Flavia Frigeri; and, from MoMA, senior conservator Karl Buchberg, senior curator Jodi Hauptman and assistant curator Samantha Friedman, both from the museum's department of drawings and prints.