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Matisse: The Cut-Outs

Posted on July 12, 2014

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On a school trip, back when there was only one Tate in London, I first encountered Matisse.  Wandering aimlessly the (what is now) Tate Britain I remember picking out The Snail as good subject matter, yes the colours were nice and it was big, but most importantly it was easy to recreate in my sketchbook.  About the same time, quite possibly on the same visit, I also discovered Allen Jones, taken in by the vibrant colours and references to fashion.  Only last night when walking around the Matisse Cut-Outs at Tate Modern did it dawn on me how linked these two artists were, strong vibrant colours, full of vigour, dance and entertainment.  Sadly it also ramped up my frustrations towards my school art education, why was this not pointed out to my fourteen-year old self? Why was I not armed with scissors and bright paper and encouraged to work in the style of these artists? But as one of our wisest interns once advised us after listening to us harp on about some trivial Luna & Curious matter, I must ‘put it in a box’ and move on.

This blockbuster show has been widely publicised by many people better equipped for the task than myself, so this is not an attempt at a review but a collection of thoughts and provocations. In any case I was far too starstruck by the pictures to be able to step back and reflect in an impartial way.

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Two Dancers (Study for Rouge et Noir)

The rawness of some of the early cut-outs capture the immediacy of the process, the pinning of the paper working similarly to a fashion designer draping fabric.  Interestingly this pinning and re-pinning of the shapes later becomes about meticulous planning and “conservation analysis has found more than a thousand tiny pin holes in the coloured shapes of Acanthuses” (exhibition catalogue).

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The Horse, The Rider and The Clown (from Jazz)

'Jazz', the artist's book that celebrates the circus is as fresh today as it was 67years ago.  After visiting 'Pick Me Up' the contemporary graphic arts festival at Somerset House in April, it is clear Matisse is still influencing people in their droves.

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The Heart (from Jazz)

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Excerpt for Taschen’s book “Henri Matisse: Cut-Outs – Drawing with Scissors” (2009)

The quiet muted colours of Oceania, are suddenly brought forth in a clamouring riot of pieces, all shouting and jostling next to each other.  As a recreation of Matisse’s studio at Villa le Reve in Vence, Room 5 presents a collective wall including The Velvets, a long striped work.

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Matisse’s designs for the chasubles to be worn in the Dominican Chapel of the Rosary at Vence were the highlights of the exhibition for me, as always I find a link to fashion and clothing, and these garments of religious order, also spoke of carnival, mexican wrestling and even our good old pearly kings & queens.

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It was in Memory of Oceania, that I suddenly saw the connection to Allen Jones, the strong pink line and patches of white with charcoal lines, hinting at what was considered.

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Memory of Oceania

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Two To Tango by Allen Jones

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III by Allen Jones 1976

Matisse proved that art is ‘vital’ in its true sense, full of life, full of colour, full of energy.  Remarkably a man in his final days produced  such ground-breaking and influential pieces, this alone cannot do anything but inspire.

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Matisse inspired fashion shoot by Cecil Beaton

Rheanna Lingham

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