Henri Matisse: The Cut-outs

Henri Matisse the cut-outs


When Matisse's health began to restrict him from painting in his late sixties, he started doing drawings for several commissions by cutting into painted paper with scissors. Matisse eventually opted for cutouts over painting since he had created a new medium. From the vegetal to the abstract, Matisse would cut painted sheets into forms of various sizes and shapes, which he would then arrange into dynamic compositions. These compositions were notable for their use of color contrast, decorative techniques, and economic use of materials. These compositions started off small but over time, as Matisse's goals for them expanded, so did their scale, becoming mural- or room-size pieces. The cut-outs, a dazzling conclusion to Matisse's lengthy career, show both a renewed devotion to form and color and a creativity directed at the medium.

"Drawing with Scissors"

This is his greatest technique calling it "drawing with scissors". Matisse began making paper cut-outs long before showing them to anyone as works of art. In fact, the first paper cut-outs he made were a means to an end as early as 1919, a way of working out ideas for his larger works of art. Matisse has been exploring for ways to integrate his shared interests in color and line throughout his career.

The Snail 1953
The Snail 1953
Nus Bleus II
Nus Bleus II 

Early works of his are characterized by color, which is painted in strong, solid, and flattened blocks (and occasionally with a line outline). Additionally, he produced clear line drawings with fluid, loose markings that showed his skill at defining shape with even the most basic of strokes. In the paper cut-outs, color and line are combined into a single approach as the scissors cut through the solid color to produce an edge as sharp as a pencil's contour. Even Matisse referred to this technique as "cutting directly into color."

Shop Matisse's Colorful Cut-outs 

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