London’s Tate Modern is set up for another blockbuster exhibition with “Henri Matisse: Cut-outs”, a collection of the French master’s late-career collage works, which ends 7 September 2014.

Rainbow rooms of bits and glue…

It is easy to enjoy or dare I say it, love, “Matisse: Cut-Outs“… what’s not to like about roomfuls of gaily coloured paper scraps composed in wall-filling arrangements of fun? Sure, your first impression might be, “What’s the big deal, I did this in nursery school” or even, “My five-year old could do it” and perhaps that initial reaction is what Tate is going for in this very popular showcase of Master Matisse’s collages from his latter years (judging by the number and scope of family activities scheduled to accompany the show).

Culture Baby offers family activities inspired by Matisse: Cut-outs © @Culture_Baby. Image courtesy and Culture Baby.

But “look out art world…have scissors, will travel” is not the only response possible when walking around the 14 (yes 14!) rooms (it’s a biggun!). As Laura Cummings points out in her review for the Guardian, Matisse’s new form of expression was a turning point for the artist as well as for Modern art; “What the new medium gave him was pure, matte, unmodified colour” Cummings writes, “…each paper piece, no matter what size or hue, has equality in this respect, none has priority, none is inflected by brushmarks – and brilliantly incisive form. Each shape feels self-contained, autonomous, retains its crisp character in relation to the next. They sing alone, and together, against the white ground, which is never inert but a dynamic part of the picture.”

Henri Matisse, 1943-4, 'The Horse, the Rider and the Clown. Image courtesy
Henri Matisse, 1943-4, ‘The Horse, the Rider and the Clown. Image courtesy

Apparently, these collages came about when Matisse suddenly and utterly abandoned serious oil painting in his late-60s to make way for circus-coloured snips; perhaps they were a coping mechanism for debilitating illness that severely affected the final decade of his life.

Matisse in his studio at the Hotel Régina, Nice, c1952. Photograph: Lydia Delectorskaya © Succession Henri Matisse. Image courtesy The Guardian.

And cope he did. His paper-and-glue compositions are the opposite of what he must have been feeling when he made them; full of energy and retaining their electric vibrancy 70 years after their making.

So here’s a final thought with a particularly splashy piece, and one of my favourites:

Henri Matisse, 'Vegetables', 1952, in 'Henri Matisse: Cut-outs' at Tate Modern, London. Image courtesy The Independent (online).
Henri Matisse, ‘Vegetables’, 1952, in ‘Henri Matisse: Cut-outs’ at Tate Modern, London. Image courtesy The Independent (online).

It’s Matisse-speak for, “Eat your vegetables.” Also, go see this exhibition before it’s gone, because…rainbows.

More Links and Information

Reviews of Henri Matisse: Cut-outs at Tate Britain

Exhibition details:Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs’ is on from 17 April to 7 September 2014 at Tate Modern, Bankside, London SE1 9TG. Paid admission, concessions. Step-free access.