Henri Matisse (1869-1954) is widely known for his paintings and paper cut outs, although he was also a draughtsman, sculptor and printmaker.
Recently, Beverley Art Gallery held an exhibition Matisse Drawing with Scissors featuring lithographic prints of Matisse's paper cut outs, which he created in the last four years of his life. The cut outs were created from hand painted paper which was arranged as abstract or figurative patterns. The prints of these cut outs featured in Verve magazine a few years after Matisse had died; he had been involved in the project.
I've always loved Matisse's work, both paintings and paper cut outs, and have been fortunate to see the original paper cut outs in a different exhibition some years ago. The abstract combined with the figurative really speaks to me, perhaps because my own work is more conceptual and features some figurative people. The curvilinear lines and the movement within Matisse's paper cut outs draw me in and appeal to my personal taste. I enjoy the need to look at some of the work in more depth to understand the meaning; another feature of my own work.
Matisse was well known for his paintings for many years; it was ill health in later life that caused him to explore paper cut outs as a medium for his artwork. He painted the paper with gouache and cut out the shapes when dry. Smaller works were created on wooden boards, with larger pieces pinned by assistants to the walls of his apartment. This fluid approach to his work enabled him to make changes to the layout until happy with the final composition. The paper cut out pieces were then traced whilst on the wall, removed and mounted at a studio in Paris using the tracing as a guide.
Matisse's paper cut outs went on to be one of the defining elements of his career and he is widely known for them.
Seeing the prints in one exhibition space was fascinating and gave a real idea of how the cut outs had developed over time. Although the exhibition has finished at Beverley Art Gallery, it is a touring exhibition and will at other venues in the UK.
For me, The Snail (first image of this blog) is a firm favourite; I have seen the original cut out of this and was surprised by the sheer size of it. Which is your favourite? Leave a comment below, I'd love to know.