….but we are all fabulous.

Matisse: the Cut-Outs

I finally made it on Friday to the Matisse Cut-Outs exhibition at the Tate Modern and I’m so glad I did – what a wonderful cheerful exhibition.

Henri Matisse - The Parakeet and the Mermaid 1952

The Parakeet and the Mermaid (1952)


As I understand it, Matisse developed the cut-out technique when he was unable to paint and over time this became his preferred way of working. His assistants would paint sheets of paper to his colour specification, Matisse would then cut out the shapes and his assistants would arrange the shapes on the walls of his bedroom-cum-studio under his direction.

Some of the cut-outs are so well known, such as the Fall of Icarus (below), that I did wonder beforehand how special the exhibition would be. I need not have worried; even the most familiar works came to life in an unexpected way.

 fall of icarus no pins  Henri Matisse - The Fall of Icarus, 1943

The Fall of Icarus (1943) – with and without pins showing


In the two versions of the Fall of Icarus above, there is the print version we are all familiar with on the left and the pinned version which was shown with the print at the exhibition. In the flesh, the simple over-layering of paper shapes provided substance and vibrancy that the printed version loses – as Matisse himself remarked, printing “removes their sensitivity”. In reality, the colours are rich and nuanced, with brush strokes revealed, whilst the layers provide a literal and figurative depth to the work belied by their simplicity.


Then there was the sheer scale of some of the works. The Parakeet and the Mermaid (above) was over a whole wall, but the most amazing room for me was the room with the designs for the Chapel at Vence (pictured below).

Matisse’s stained-glass window at Vence chapel, France



The design for the Virgin and Child again took up a whole wall, but what was remarkable about this was that Matisse painted it using charcoal attached to a long bamboo stick or wand so that he didn’t have to climb a ladder to work on such a large scale. Having recently decorated a room and had to use a roller on an extended pole, I can only marvel at the upper body strength and stamina Matisse displayed despite being in poor health and in his late 70s.

Matisse - Virgin and Child

 Virgin and Child (1947)


Matisse painting in bed

 Matisse painting from his bed.


In ill health, in old age, Matisse still found a way to create beauty.



Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs is still on at the Tate Modern until September 7th 2014 –




2 comments on “Matisse: the Cut-Outs

  1. Mairead
    August 4, 2014

    Thanks for this posting, Sue, and for sharing your experience of the exhibition. Didn’t know all that about Matisse and found it really inspiring to hear about his determination to find a way of expressing himself artistically, even when so physically compromised. Amazing.

    • notallwomenarethesame
      August 4, 2014

      Thanks Mairead, it was very impressive and I love the idea that we can carry on having meaningful lives as long as we believe we can and are motivated to find a way. Sue

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