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).
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.”
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.
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:
It’s Matisse-speak for, “Eat your vegetables.” Also, go see this exhibition before it’s gone, because…rainbows.
More Links and Information
- Read more about ‘Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs’ at Tate Britain
- View/download Henri Matisse: Cut-outs at Tate Modern exhibit guide [PDF]
- Related article: “Collage – a cure for your creative clog“ – 20 March 2014 on kelise72.com
Reviews of Henri Matisse: Cut-outs at Tate Britain
- “The lesson of a life-time” by Laura Cumming of the Guardian – 20 April 2014 – “Nothing can prepare you for the joyous brilliance…”
- “A guaranteed winner” by Richard Dorment of The Telegraph – 15 April 2014 – 5/5 stars – “From now on we’ll see [the collages] not simply as delightful arrangements of shapes and colours but as works of art that touch the spirit through the imagination.”
- “The Urge to Strangle” by TJ Clark for London Review of Books – 5 June 2014 – “Was Matisse at the end of his life the Greek or the modern? It is the question posed by this extraordinary show, and one in which the whole meaning and fate of ‘modern’ art is, triumphantly and sometimes painfully, at stake. “
- “Delight in the sensual shapes and vibrant colours that will make this Matisse show a record-breaker“, writes Brian Sewell in the Evening Standard – 15 April 2014 -“Enjoy the gaiety of colour…Delight in the jaunty amusements of the infants’ school, but do not discard your critical faculties.”
- “Matisse’s cut-outs are ecstatic though controlled” by Zoe Pilger for The Independent – 14 April 2014 – 4/5 stars – “Most beguiling about Matisse is the way that he saw art as part of life, indeed, as a way to make life better.”
- “Matisse’s cut-outs at Tate Modern are brimming with life” writes Lowenna Waters for Apollo Magazine – 29 April 2014 – “It is great to see artworks that are so often reproduced, in the flesh: their scale is stunning.”
- Users of TripAdvisor rank ‘Matisse: Cut-outs’ at Tate Britain on average 4.5/5 stars – out of 2,616 reviews.
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.