Henri Matisse’s Cut Outs, On View at MoMA Until February 10th.
On view until mid February is the Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition at MoMA. After a successful career as a painter, Henri Matisse turned to cut-paper collage in his last decade, as he was unable to comfortably articulate a paintbrush because of the difficulties of old age.
Matisse’s process involved cutting pieces of painted paper, which were often prepared to his specifications by a team of assistants, and arranging the shapes into collage compositions. These compositions varied greatly in size, from no larger than a postcard, to full room-sized installations.
For the smaller works, Matisse composed his collages directly onto boards using pins, while larger compositions were arranged by Matisse’s assistants, as directed by the artist. Often, Matisse would direct his team to rearrange the cut-out pieces, resulting in multiple pin holes in the paper, which are visible in the completed works.
Matisse used a variety of scissor sizes to achieve a fluid cut line in the painted sheets of paper, and was often aided by his team of assistants for larger cuts. This method of collage allowed the artist to focus on the shape and outline of his pieces.
There are no drawn lines in his cut-outs, rather, he used only the form of his cut pieces to achieve the shapes of his compositions. Matisse considered his cut outs to be directly related to his painting practice, stating that collage was like “cutting directly into color” and “drawing with scissors”.
Interestingly, Matisse claimed that his cut-outs were very influenced by Middle Eastern design, namely the two-dimensional flatness of his compositions, and the mosaic-like effect of his large installations.