09 February 2015

Matisse Cut-Outs

"The Fall of Icarus" Henri Matisse (1943)

Tomorrow is the last day of the “Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs” exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art (M0MA). To say that the show has been popular is an understatement: this past weekend MoMA stayed open round the clock to accommodate visitors even at three in the morning. I saw the show last month and even though there was a wait and huge crowds, it was well worth it.

Roughly 100 pieces filled room after room with the most incredible colours and shapes. More familiar with his paintings, I was unaware that toward the end of his life Matisse worked almost exclusively in cut-outs (a bout with cancer left him weakened and bedridden for much of his later years). In a way, it was like looking at the rebirth of an artist, one who discovered a new way to express how he saw the world.

"The Parakeet and the Mermaid" Henri Matisse (1952)

In Matisse's hands some pieces of coloured paper (his assistants painted sheets of paper with paint chosen by the artist), dress pins, and a pair of scissors could render a dancer, the design for a stain-glassed window for a chapel, or a swimming pool of bodies that wrapped around a room. 

Two of my favourite pieces were a contrast in size. "The Fall of Icarus" with its lovely Mediterranean blue and blaze of fire at its center, was small yet striking. And I simply adored a mural Matisse created when he lived at the Hôtel Régina in Nice. “The Parakeet and the Mermaid,” which covered two walls (ignoring the radiator in the way) of Matisse’s studio, is a glorious collection of leaves and fruit (with a parakeet and mermaid at either end) in a medley of colours including some shocking pink. This work gave an ill man who had once loved to garden a garden that he could maintain and nourish. Like the rest of the exhibit, it was a joy to see.

If you didn't manage to see the exhibit, you can view the rest of the works and read more about Matisse here.

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