Matisse. Drawing with Scissors
Late Works 1950-1954

Image credit: Henri Matisse, L’Escargot (The Snail), 1952-53. Gouache decoupee, 286 x 287 cm. Arts Council Collection (c) DACS.

A Hayward Touring exhibition from Southbank Centre, London on behalf of Arts Council England

The French painter, sculptor and designer Henri Matisse (1869-1954) was one of the twentieth centuries most influential artists.


His vibrant works are celebrated for their extraordinary richness and luminosity of colour. Matisse continued creating highly original works into his eighties when, confined to his bed, he produced his famous cut outs, using paper hand painted with gouache, laid down in abstract or simple figurative patterns. ‘The paper cut-out allows me to draw in the colour …. Instead of drawing the outline and putting the colour inside it … I draw straight into the colour’. The colours he used were so strong that he was advised by his doctor to wear dark glasses.

 

Matisse: Drawing with Scissors, a Hayward Touring exhibition from the Southbank Centre, features 35 lithographic prints of the famous cut-outs, produced in the last four years of his life, when the artist was confined to his bed. It includes many of his iconic images, such as The Snail and the Blue Nudes.

 

Matisse continued creating highly original works into his eighties. For his cut-outs he used paper hand-painted with gouache, laid down in abstract or figurative patterns: ‘the paper cut-out allows me to draw in the colour … Instead of drawing the outline and putting the colour inside it…I draw straight into the colour’. The colours he used were so strong that he was advised by his doctor to wear dark glasses.

 

The lithographic reproductions in this exhibition are taken from a special double issue of Verve, a review of art and literature, published by Tériade, a major publisher of fine art books in 1958.

 

Matisse began his working life as a lawyer, before going to Paris to study art in 1890. At first strongly influenced by the Impressionists, he soon created his own style, using brilliant, pure colours, and started making sculptures as well as paintings. In 1905 he and his colleagues were branded the Fauves (wild beasts) because of their unconventional use of colour, and it was during this time that he painted his celebrated Luxe, Calme et Volupté (Luxury, Tranquillity and Delight).

 

‘There is no gap between my earlier pictures and my cut-outs’, Matisse wrote; ‘I have only reached a form reduced to the essential through greater absoluteness and greater abstraction’.