London’s Tate Modern is unveiling a large new show dedicated to Henri Matisse's prolific production of cut-outs.
The 130 works on display were created largely in the last decade of the French artist’s long life, when Matisse, who was in a wheelchair recovering from cancer, used scissors and paper to create a series of big, bold and ambitious pieces.
He initially used paper cut-outs to plan paintings and large works such set designs. It later became an artistic medium in itself.
“I think Matisse thought of the cut-outs in a way as a synthesis of everything he’d been trying to work through in his life, resolving issues of colour, line, contour, painting, drawing, sculpting. He talked about the process of the cut-outs as being that of cutting into colour,” says the exhibition’s co-curator Nicholas Cullinan.
The works include large pieces like the richly patterned ‘Large Composition with Masks’ that cover entire walls of the gallery.
In his final years, Matisse worked tirelessly on the design of the Vence Rosary Chapel in southern France, using the cut-out technique for the stained glass windows and ceramic panels.
An artist herself, Sophie Matisse says this feverish creativity was all part of a "final blooming" in her great grandfather's life:
“He was very close to the end of his life and there were more things that he wanted to do, and he felt that the clock was ticking so-to-speak and he didn’t have a long time to say what he wanted or do what he wanted,” says the artist’s great-granddaughter.
Matisse died in 1954 at the age of 84. The exhibition is a rare chance to see many of his final works brought together under one roof.
‘Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs’ runs at London’s Tate Modern until September before moving to the Museum of Modern Art in New York in the autumn.