Gloria deHerrera, a one-time Los Angeles art preservationist credited with making permanent the paper collages created by Henri Matisse, has died of cancer in France.
Miss deHerrera, who moved to France more than 30 years ago, was 56 when she died in Montignac last Monday.
She had been an assistant at the old Los Angeles County Museum of History, Science and Art in Exposition Park, said James Byrnes, the museum’s retired curator.
Befriended by William Copley, an art dealer and brother of the late newspaper publisher James Copley, she became involved with the Los Angeles avant-garde art community that then included Max Ernst and Man Ray.
In 1951, Miss deHerrera, Ray and Copley sailed to Paris--and she was never to return.
In France she worked for Maurice LeFebvre-Foinet, who supplied art materials to Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Marc Chagall and other giants of the modern art world. After she restored a work of Chagall’s, the prolific artist’s daughter recommended Miss deHerrera to Matisse.
Matisse, in frail health, spent much of the 15 years preceding his 1954 death confined to his bed. In those years he had turned to what he called “drawing with scissors"--a series of paper collages.
To Miss deHerrera fell the task of giving durability to the delicate birds, flowers and figures he had pinned to paper. The work continued two years after Matisse’s death.
Byrnes said he was never able to learn the precise formula of glues and cements she used that kept intact the abstract papier decoupes , one of which is at UCLA.
While in Paris Miss deHerrera became a political activist and was brought to trial on charges of helping the Algerian rebel cause. She was jailed for two months in 1960 while awaiting trial but her case was separated from that of 20 Frenchmen facing similar charges and her sentence, if any, was not reported.
Later she was one of the artists used to re-create the Cro-Magnon drawings found in the caves at Lascaux after the caves were closed to the public in 1965 when humidity was threatening the primitive sketches.
The reproduced paintings are now on display in a museum at Lascaux.
Miss deHerrera is survived by her mother, Gloria, and a brother, David, both of Eagle Rock.