AAJ Press
Exhibitions & Events, Painting

Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs. Tate Modern, London. 17 April – 7 September 2014

Matisse_Large composition with masks_1953

Henri Matisse, Large Composition with Masks 1953 National Gallery of Art, Washington. Ailsa Mellon Bruce Fund 1973.17.1 Digital Image: © National Gallery of Art, Washington Artwork: © Succession Henri Matisse/DACS 2014

The exhibition showcases 120 works made between 1936 and 1954. In his late sixties, when ill health first prevented Matisse from painting, he began to cut into painted paper with scissors to make drafts for a number of commissions. The paper was painted with gouache with atmospheric names – Light Japanese Green, Deep Cadmium Yellow and Persian Violet. Matisse chose cut-outs over painting as a simple but sophisticated medium to communicate his ideas.

Extending through fourteen rooms at Tate, the cut-outs, are bold, exuberant and often large in scale, and range in imagery from acanthuses and snowflowers to acrobats, dancers and circuses. Images from Jazz show the influence of the pochoir / stencil process in developing the cut paper technique for the cut-outs. He said of his designs for Jazz, “I cut out these gouache sheets the way you cut glass: only here they’re organised to reflect light, whereas in a stained-glass window they have to be arranged differently because light shines through them. The Sheaf and Large Decoration with Mask’s 1953 were originally conceived as designs for ceramic murals.Thee large scale worksTate’s The Snail, 1953 is shown alongside companion works Memory of Oceania,The Sky, 1953 and Large Decoration with Masks, 1953,  initially conceived as a unified whole, and shown together for the first time in over 50 years. Matisse’s series of four Blue Nudes represent the artist’s interest in the nude figure. His assistant Lydia Delectorskya described the artist’s process in making a cut-out figure: “modelling it like a clay sculpture: sometimes adding, sometimes removing”. Works such as Zulma, Creole Dancer, The Sheaf, The Parakeet and the Mermaid are a cornucopia of colour. The exhibition includes a film by Adrian Maught of the artist making the cut-outs, a recreation of Matisse’s studio, and a tribute to Matisse’s Dominican Chapel of the Rosary at Vence in 1947.

Matisse’s studio assistant and secretary Lydia Delectorskaya recalled the starting point for Oceania, The Sky:

“Matisse had cut out a swallow from a sheet of writing paper and, as it distressed him to tear up this beautiful shape and throw it away, he said, he put it up on this wall, also using it to cover up a stain, the sight of which disturbed him. Over the following weeks other shapes were cut out and put up on the same wall.’

Matisse pinned cut-out birds, fish, coral and leaves directly onto the wall of his Paris apartment without knowing in advance what the outcome would be. His inspiration was a visit to Tahiti sixteen years before. ‘It’s as though my memory had suddenly taken the place of the outside world’, he explained. ‘There, swimming every day in the lagoon, I took such intense pleasure in contemplating the submarine world.”

Matisse, Henri (1869-1954): Memory of Oceania (Sou

Henri Matisse, Memory of Oceania 1952-3 MoMA Digital image: © 2013. The Museum of Modern Art, New York / Scala Florence Artwork: © Succession Henri Matisse/DACS 2014

Matisse_Blue Nude I_1952

Henri Matisse, Blue Nude (I) 1952 Foundation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel © Succession Henri Matisse/DACS 2013

Matisse_Horse and Rider_1947

Henri Matisse, The Horse, the Rider, and the Clown 1943-4 Maquette for plate V of the illustrated book Jazz 1947 © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Jean-Claude Planchet © Succession Henri Matisse/DACS 2013


Henri Matisse, Icarus 1946 Maquette for plate VIII of the illustrated book Jazz 1947 Digital image: © Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Jean-Claude Planchet Artwork: © Succession Henri Matisse/DACS 2014


Henri Matisse, The Snail 1953 Tate © Succession Henri Matisse/DACS 2013

Matisse Live – Tate is broadcasting a film about the exhibition live into cinemas around the UK. This shows an intimate, behind-the-scenes view of the artist with footage of the works, interviews with his friends and archive footage of Matisse at work.

Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs. Tate Modern. London. 17 April – 7 September 2014. Tickets: £16.30 for adults, concessions available


About jeh

Jeremy Hunt is Director of the AAJ Press (Art & Architecture Journal / Press) – a writer and consultant on art and public space


One thought on “Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs. Tate Modern, London. 17 April – 7 September 2014

  1. And who knew that 60 years later, one of the original 30 linen silkscreen panels made from Oceania, The Sky’s sister piece, Oceania, The Sea, would sell at Christie’s for £3 million. Not bad for what started as a scrap of paper covering up a blemish… http://artseer.wordpress.com/2014/04/18/matisse-cut-outs-tate-modern-review/

    Posted by Artseer | April 29, 2014, 6:51 pm

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