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Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs - Tate Modern

Exhibition preview

Tate Modern’s major exhibition, Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs (on display until September 7, 2014), is the most comprehensive exhibition ever devoted to the artist’s paper cut-outs made between 1937 and 1954.

It brings together around 130 works, many seen together for the first time, in a groundbreaking reassessment of Matisse’s colourful and innovative final works. The exhibition opened at Tate Modern on April 17 and will be in cinemas as Matisse Live from June 3, 2014.

Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse (1869 – 1954) is one of the leading figures of modern art and one of the most significant colourists of all time.

A draughtsman, printmaker, sculptor and painter, his unparalleled cut-outs are among the most significant of any artist’s late works. 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 in his long career.

Some of Matisse’s first cut-outs were made between 1943 and 1947 and were collected together in Jazz, 1947 (Pompidou, Paris), a book of 20 plates. Copies, published by Teriade and featuring a text hand-written by Matisse, are shown alongside the original cut-outs. This is the first time that the Jazz maquettes and the book have been shown together outside France.

Other major cut-outs in the exhibition include Tate’s The Snail, 1953, its sister work Memory of Oceania, 1953 (MoMA, New York) and Large Composition with Masks, 1953 (National Gallery of Art, Washington). A photograph of Matisse’s studio reveals that these works were initially conceived as a unified whole. This is the first time these three large-scale works have been exhibited together for over fifty years.

The show includes the largest number of Matisse’s Blue Nudes ever exhibited together, including the most significant of the group Blue Nude I, 1952 (Beyeler Foundation, Basel). The works illustrate Matisse’s renewed interest in the figure.

When ill health prevented Matisse from painting, he began to cut into painted paper with scissors to make maquettes for commissions, from books and stained glass window designs to tapestries and ceramics.

In the cut-outs, outlines take on sculptural form and painted sheets of paper are infused with the luminosity of stained glass. Using colour, Matisse evokes the convulsive surface of water and the lushness of vegetation. The result reflected both a renewed commitment to form and colour and an inventiveness freshly directed to the status of the work of art.

The exhibition re-examines the cut-outs in terms of the methods and materials that Matisse used, and their double lives, first as contingent and mutable in the studio and ultimately as permanent works through mounting and framing. The exhibition highlights the tensions in the works between finish and process; fine art and decoration; contemplation and utility; and drawing and colour.

Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs is curated by Nicholas Cullinan, Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and Nicholas Serota, Director, Tate with Flavia Frigeri, Assistant Curator, Tate; and at the Museum of Modern Art, New York by Jodi Hauptman, Curator, Department of Drawings, and Karl Buchberg, Senior Conservator, with Samantha Friedman, Assistant Curator. It will tour to the Museum of Modern Art from October 14 to February 9, 2015.

A paperback book (pictured) is available from Tate Modern’s gift shop. Fully illustrated in colour throughout, it includes many photographs of Matisse in his studio; some of which are previously unpublished.

Tickets: Adult £18 (without donation £16.30), concession £16 (without donation £14.50).

Opening Times: Daily from 10am to 6pm and until 10pm on Friday and Saturday.

Tate Modern, Bankside, London, SE1 9TG


Tel: +44 (0)20 7887 8888