A Piece Of Matisse

I have longed to see Matisse’s extraordinary work ever since I

Henri Matisse (1869 -1964) Blue Nude (I) 1952 Gouache painted paper cut-outs on paper on canvas 106.30 x 78.00cm Foundation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel Digital image: Robert Bayer, Basel Artwork: © Succession Henri Matisse/DACS 2014

Henri Matisse (1869 -1964)
Blue Nude (I) 1952
Gouache painted paper cut-outs on paper on canvas
106.30 x 78.00cm
Foundation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel
Digital image: Robert Bayer, Basel
Artwork: © Succession Henri Matisse/DACS 2014

was thirteen and received a book on him as a school prize for my art work. I finally fulfilled my childhood ambition on Saturday when I attended ‘Henri Matisee: The Cut-Outs’ exhibition at the Tate Modern. Full of the expression of colour that he was famed for, the bright colours matched the beautiful weather that lit up the South Bank on a stunning weekend day in the capital.

Dedicated to one of the masters of twentieth century art and a giant of modernism, it is a once in a lifetime exhibition particularly as some of the depicted works have either never been on display before or it is the first time they have been shown outside of France. The ticket prices are on the more expensive side at just over £16.00; however when you consider that this is a unique one off exhibition, the price tag seems small in comparison.

Matisse (1869-1964) was famed for his paintings during the first half of the twentieth century. After exhibiting at the ‘Salon d’Automne’ in Paris 1905, Matisse and a loose association of artists were labelled by the critic Louis Vauxcelles as the Fauves (wild beasts); so called for the expressive use of vivid juxtaposed colours with deliberate hard brush strokes. The perception at the time was the Matisse and his contemporaries were wildly expressing themselves with little regard for artistic convention. The vivid use of colour is what I found so appealing about his art. I find it beautiful, intriguing, striking and bursting with life and zest.

Throughout his illustrious artistic career spanning five decades, Matisse produced a huge body of work; the cut-outs of which are the final chapter of his creative story. When ill health took hold of him and his mobility became restricted during the last seventeen years of his life, the veteran artist found an alternative way to continue with his creativity and began the cut-outs.

Henri Matisse (1869 -1964) Memory of Oceania 1952-3 Gouache and crayon on cut-and-pasted paper over canvas MoMA Digital image: © 2013. The Museum of Modern Art, New York / Scala Florence Artwork: © Succession Henri Matisse/DACS 2014

Henri Matisse (1869 -1964)
Memory of Oceania 1952-3
Gouache and crayon on cut-and-pasted paper over canvas
MoMA
Digital image: © 2013. The Museum of Modern Art, New York / Scala Florence
Artwork: © Succession Henri Matisse/DACS 2014

Once inside you navigate your way through twelve rooms that take you on a journey through the different phases of the cut-outs. There is an impressive 130 pieces of work to be admired and several iconic works are to found amongst them such as ‘Icarus’, one that I particularly like as I am always fascinated and intrigued when modern art meets ancient mythology; and his rather infamous piece ‘The Snail’ is also displayed alongside two other large compositions brought together for the first time since 1953. Room Nine featuring the Blue Nudes was a particular favourite of mine and is the largest number of the Blue Nudes that has ever been displayed together and demonstrate effectively what Matisse described as ‘cutting directly into colour’.

Throughout each of the rooms bold vivid colours dominate, just as they did in his paintings. Some of the cut-outs were produced on an enormous scale, such as ‘The Parakeet and the Mermaid.’ The composition was spread across the walls of his studio and the shapes were applied by his assistants under his direction. I found this piece particularly endearing as this was Matisse’s way of bringing the outside inside at a time when he was too frail to leave his home.

‘Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs’ was a thoroughly enjoyable exhibition and is definitely worth catching before the pieces are dispersed back to their respective homes in galleries and private collectors around the world.

Henri-Matisse: The Cut-Outs runs at the Tate Modern from 17th April – 7th September 2014

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