Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs
- Tate Modern |
- 17 April – 7 September 2014
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Some 120 coloured paper cut-outs made between 1943 and 1954 mark the significant final phase in the celebrated French artist's career.
Watch our video-tour, presented by art historian Jacky Klein.
When ill health prevented Henri Matisse from painting he turned his hand to cut-outs, producing maquettes for books, stained glass window designs, tapestries and ceramics.
Praised for their bold use of colour and abstract beauty, they began to gain attention as artworks in their own right. In fact it is said that when Picasso first saw them, he admitted to being 'rather jealous'.
Here, the exhibition re-examines the cut-outs as a form of expression, exploring their transition from studio pieces into permanent works that came to be considered among his most glorious. While Matisse's health continued to detoriate, his cut-outs only become more daring in their use of scale and subject matter.
Four years in the planning, this stage of the artist's career has never been examined in such detail before, owing not just to the dispersion of the works into international collections, but also due to their fragility. As such, it is unlikely that such an exhibition will be forthcoming again for some time.
The initial series of cut-outs was made between 1943 and 1947 and collected together in Jazz, a book of 20 plates. Copies of Jazz, featuring hand-written text by the artist, are shown here alongside Matisse's original designs.
This exhibition also sees The Snail reunited with its sister works Memory of Oceania and Large Composition with Masks. Photographs of Matisse's studio reveal that these cut-outs were initially conceived as a unified whole, yet remarkably, this is the first time they have been seen together since they were first made.
For most though, the undoubtable highlight will be the display of Matisse's Blue Nudes – the largest number ever to be exhibited together – and including the most significant of the group, Blue Nude I.
What the critics say
"Colour dances, and our eyes dance with it, following contours and edges, sliding from shape to shape, wallowing in a whiteness that becomes electric, jumping from positive to negative and back again. There is no stasis, no arrest, but a constant discovery of newness at every turn: a swallow swerves in flight, a shark swims the wall."
"I guarantee that this exhibition... will be among the most popular ever staged in this country... But what makes the exhibition outstanding for me is that the curators have imbued the cut-outs with a quality that at first glance they appear to lack: complexity."
"These works are exultant; they make you feel happy, high, vital, which is what the artist intended."