If you are in London, or England, and have the opportunity to see the Matisse cut outs exhibition, do go. It is on until 7 September 2014. It is astounding and beautiful. If you love colour you will explode with joy at this sensational late life work of a master, who was ill and disabled but managed to produce this work as perhaps the pinnacle and joy of his career. There is a good review by Laura Cummins here. She writes:
Matisse grew up in a textile town in the industrial heartland of north-eastern France, the son of a draper and grandson of a linen weaver. He was always at home with material, surrounded by swatches, understanding their fluidity, weight and drape. His paintings (so full of fabric) sometimes seem to be woven together, the colour passing back and forth through the composition, and his cut-outs involve pins, swatches, fitted shapes and pieces made to measure.
I am sorry I can’t share more pictures – taking them is forbidden and I got into trouble. I also bought some post cards, which I have photographed. These three (and the exhibition is extensive with so much to see, over 130 pieces including stained glass), especially stood out to me. They all have a white background, which was very deliberate for Matisse who felt it made the colours stand out. White is being used as a colour, which I find very interesting. They are also enormous. The parakeet and the mermaid, below, took up a whole wall in his home and he made it while he was recuperating from a major operation and could not work in his studio. His assistants helped with painting the paper that he cut out, and in pinning the pieces in the right spot. There is evidence that he changed the arrangement hundreds of times before he was happy with it. The sea forms (corals or seaweed) dominate, with blue pomegranates.
The second two were commissions for ceramic pieces. Again the ill, ageing artist worked and corrected, worked and corrected until he and his clients were satisfied.
I hope to use these ideas as inspiration for my textiles class next term when we will be doing screen-printing. These shapes and colours would work well with block printing too. And with digital. Applique? And no doubt patchworkers, knitting designers and potters could interpret them too. They just make me gasp with their beauty.
Here is a colour palette inspired by Matisse.
I will go again. As a member at the Tate I can take two people (no queueing, and free of charge). If you would like to come let me know.