= The Crawford Arts Review: Tate Modern's Matisse: The Cut-Outs

Friday, 5 September 2014

Tate Modern's Matisse: The Cut-Outs

Tate Modern: part of the north
Photo © the reviewer 2014
The works assembled in the Henri Matisse Cut-Outs Exhibition cover Matisse's artistic recall of his earlier visits to the South Pacific and Tangier when he swam in the ocean and remembered the plants and animals he saw there for the rest of his life. These are the vivacious natural forms a scuba diver might hope to see today. On the walls of a gallery, they speak of another world, one made up of the undulating leaves of a tropical lagoon. They are among Matisse's most famous works, prized by private collectors all over the world. 120 of them have been painstakingly brought to London (paper works are particularly fragile) and just as painstakingly assembled to best show the stages of their development. The exhibition was 6 years in the making. £16.30 is not too steep a price to pay. National Art Pass holders (see below) get in for £8.15. 

Matisse assembled his cut-outs while living in Villa le Rêve, his home and studio in Vence near Nice. Remembering his daily swims in the lagoons of Tahiti, and using paper previously painted by his assistants and a sturdy pair of scissors, he fished from his memory tropical fish, shellfish, leaves, seaweed, coral, birds, all manner of leaves. "I absorbed everything as a sponge absorbs liquid," the artist was to write, "It is only now that these wonders have returned to me, with tenderness and clarity."

The results fill 14 Tate Modern rooms with colour, form and movement. In Adrien Maeght's film of Matisse at work (made in 1945 when the young Maeght was just 14 and shown in the exhibition) we see the adaptations the artist used when too ill and frail to work with brush and paint at his easel. He took to a chair. One scene shows him sitting at his studio table assembling cut-outs for a panel. When a leaf of paper threatens to tip over onto the floor, we see his hand spring forward to save it from falling, positioning it with a no-nonsense paternal gesture at the edge of the acanthus leaf it is going to be part of. We also see the artist using a long cane to indicate the area in which he wants a newly made cut-out to be positioned by his assistants. They would first pin the pieces and later, when Matisse was satisfied with the overall composition, paste them into place and mount the finished piece on canvas. 

This is a ‘once in a lifetime’ exhibition so go online and track through the room guide before your visit. Go online and visit Flavia Frigeri’s blog showing the Vence Chapel and describing how Matisse's sequence of work there unfolded. Scroll down to see how the artist covered the very walls of his Paris apartment with cut-outs.

Don’t forget the online shop. Customised prints start at £25 and there is a wealth of material to choose from.

Here are three examples: 
Creole Dancer, June 1950 
Blue Nude II, Spring 1952 
Snow Flowers, 1951

Tate Modern
London SE1  

National Art Pass (discounts exhibitions such as the above to half price)

Opening hours
Sun–Thu, 10am–6pm
Fri–Sat, 10am–10pm
please check latest opening hours for Saturday 6th and Sunday 7th.

Matisse: The Cut-Outs ended Sunday 07 September. To book online for Kazimir Malevich, go to the Tate website 

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