"Cut-outs" According to Matisse
Henri Matisse was a genius at painting and drawing. But have you heard about his collages? The Tate Modern in London dedicated a major retrospective to the Master. Explore another of his (many) facets.
The collages appeared late and quite by chance in Matisse’s life. Illness slowed down his creativity, with Matisse spending most of his time at home. He was given six months to live and whilst fighting cancer. Accompanying pain, Matisse began to transform his home into an art studio, creating one piece after another. He soon came up with the idea of cutting paper out of large sheets of white paper. This technique was less tiring, allowing him to remain seated whilst at work. Without even realising it, Matisse had invented a new art form.
The artist’s impact
Eventually, Matisse proved the doctors wrong and lived much longer than expected. In the 1940s, Matisse excelled, making hundreds of collages, sometimes on commission (posters, triptychs, murals, etc.), sometimes for his own pleasure.
Assistants helped the painter create his collages, which were sometimes several meters long and high. The first step was to paint large sheets of paper with bright colors. This task was performed either by an assistant or by Matisse himself. The second step was reserved for the master and consisted of cutting out shapes from the painted sheets of paper. When all the pieces were ready to be assembled, Matisse tested them on the walls of his house, with only a handful of thumbtacks and an assistant on a step ladder. It took several hours and even days to get it right, with the artist sitting in the distance and guiding his assistant with hand gestures.
Thanks to his paper cutting technique, Matisse was able to regain the fluidity of a paintbrush with a pair of scissors. The way in which he mastered the art of paper cutting, allowed him to regain control of his pictorial representations, as he did during his younger creative years. He was able to recapture the play of lights, colours and shapes, surprising the public with his chromatic improvisations.
The colorful life of Matisse
Matisse is nearing the end of his life, but his creations are bursting with life. The colours are strong and the shapes dance before your eyes; we are totally seduced by the simplicity of his work. As Matisse liked to say, he mastered the art of “drawing with scissors”.
”Paper cutting allows me to draw with colours. For me, it’s a simplification: instead of drawing the contour and colouring the inside – one modifying the other – I draw directly into the colour, which is even more precise as it hasn’t been converted. This simplification guarantees a precision in the alliance of two mediums that become one.” Henri Matisse
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