|Tate Modern: part of the north|
Photo © the reviewer 2014
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