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Bringing together around 120 works, many seen together for the first time, the exhibition celebrates the period in which Matisse began ‘cutting into colour’ and his series of spectacular cut-outs was born.
Henri Matisse is a leading figure of modern art and one of the most significant colourists of all time. In a career spanning over half a century, Matisse made a large body of work of which the cut-outs are a brilliant final chapter.
The drama, scale and innovation of these works, made between 1936 and 1954, remain without precedent or parallel.
Major works in the exhibition include Tate’s The Snail 1953, its sister work Memory of Oceania 1953 and Large Composition with Masks 1953 at 10 metres long. A photograph of Matisse’s studio reveals that these works were initially conceived as a unified whole, and this is the first time they will have been together since they were made in Matisse’s studio.
When ill health first prevented Matisse from painting, he began to cut into painted paper with scissors as his primary technique to make maquettes for a number of commissions. In the cut-outs, outlines take on sculptural form and painted sheets of paper are infused with the luminosity of stained glass.
These are extraordinarily forward-looking works. They are more like installations or environments than paintings; and they seem very contemporary now. They were a way of collapsing line and colour; at the same time they were a kind of sculpture – carving into pure colour.
© Tate Modern.