Henri Matisse is one of the most important artists of the twentieth century and one of the most significant colorists of all time. Draftsman, printmaker, sculptor and painter, his incomparable cuts are among the most significant works of artists of recent times. In a career spanning over half a century, Matisse made a great number of works, among which, the cuts are a brilliant final chapter in his long career. Tate Modern presents, until next 7th September, Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs, the most comprehensive exhibition ever devoted to the role of the artist cuts. It brings together around 130 works, many seen together for the first time in an innovative evaluation of late and colorful works by Matisse.
Through 14 rooms, the exhibition traces the cuts in terms of the methods and materials used by Matisse and their double lives, first as contingent and mutable in the study and, ultimately, permanent works through mounting and framing . The exhibition highlights the tensions in the works between the finish and the process; works of art and decoration; contemplation and usefulness; drawing and color.
When bad health put Matisse aside painting, he began to cut into the painted paper with scissors to make models of fees, books and colored glass window designs for tapestries and ceramics. Through the use of color, Matisse evokes the turbulent surface of water and lush vegetation. The result reflects the renewed commitment of both shape and color as an inventive directed to the situation of the artwork.
Some of Matisse first cuts were made between 1943 and 1947 and a book of 20 plates were collected together in Jazz (1947 Pompidou, Paris). Some copies, with a text by Matisse handwritten are shown alongside the original cuts. This will be the first time the models and the book are brought together outside of France.
Other major cuts in the exhibition include The Snail (1953), his work Memory of Oceania (1953, MoMA, New York) and Great composition with masks (1953, National Gallery of Art, Washington). A photograph of Matisse study reveals that these works were initially conceived as a unified whole. This is the first time these three great works have been exhibited together for over fifty years.
The show also has the largest number of ‘Blue Nude’ Matisse exhibited together, including the most important group Blue Nude I (1952, Beyeler Foundation, Basel). The works illustrate Matisse’s renewed interest in the figure.