Artist Stories

Henri Matisse’s Cut-Outs

Zuzanna Stańska 29 December 2021 min Read

Coping with the difficulties of old age and illness in the years following World War II, Matisse nonetheless produced some of the most vibrant and dynamic works of his career. The artist turned almost exclusively to cutting paper as his primary medium. He lived and worked in southern France, in sunny studios in Vence and Nice. Following surgeries for severe intestinal disease, he was confined mostly to his bed and to a wheelchair. Working with paper turned out to be an ideal solution to his limited range of movement.

In this short video, you can see rare colored footage of Henri Matisse himself making paper cut-outs:

Matisse initially kept his cut-out technique a secret. In 1943, however, he began to work on Jazz, an illustrated book of cut-out designs. Its main theme was the circus, and its pages reproduced Matisse’s lively paper acrobats, clowns, and animals. However, there were also hints of wartime violence in the illustrations’ exploding starbursts and falling bodies.

Henri Matisse, Icarus 1946 Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Droits réservés © Succession Henri Matisse / DACS 2013
Henri Matisse, Icarus, 1946, Centre Pompidou, Paris, France.

The artist created some of his best-known art in the final decade of his life, and he made it from the simplest materials: shapes cut from colorful sheets of paper. He described these works as “drawing with scissors,” and he used this technique for works of various sizes and subjects.

Matisse at the Hôtel Régina, Nice, c. 1952. Photo: Lydia Delectorskaya. © 2014 Succession H. Matisse
Matisse at the Hôtel Régina, Nice, c. 1952. Photo by Lydia Delectorskaya. © 2014 Succession H. Matisse.

Matisse died in 1954 at the age of 84. His last years of life led to an extraordinary burst of expression, the culmination of half a century of work, but also to a radical renewal that made it possible for him to create what he had always struggled for. He wrote:

I have needed all that time to reach the stage where I can say what I want to say.

Get your daily dose of art

Click and follow us on Google News to stay updated all the time

Recommended

Husband and wife sitting and resting one opposite another. Artist Stories

American Colorist: Milton Avery

American artist Milton Avery employed wide strokes of vivid colors and simple forms in his acclaimed portraits, still lifes, and landscapes. Abstract...

Nikolina Konjevod 12 February 2024

Artist Stories

Morris Hirshfield and His Bizarre Animals

It is a common opinion that if you would like to start a career in arts, you should begin as early as possible. But talent knows no boundaries, and...

Zuzanna Stańska 29 January 2024

Artist Stories

Jean Cocteau – Prince of Parisian Bohème

Jean Maurice Eugène Clément Cocteau (1889-1963) was a prince of bohème. A significant figure in the European art of the 20th century, Cocteau...

Valeria Kumekina 18 January 2024

Controversial Artists: Artist Stories

Controversial or Criminal? Problematic Artists and Cancel Culture

Great art pushes boundaries and challenge norms. But how should we react to works by artists with a history of truly horrifying behaviour?

Candy Bedworth 18 December 2023