Henri Matisse The Snail 1953 Gouache on paper, cut and pasted on paper mounted on canvas support: 2864 x 2870 mm Purchased with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1962 Succession Henri Matisse/DACS 2002
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Henri Matisse is a giant of modern art. This landmark show explores the final chapter in his career in which he began ‘carving into colour’ and his series of spectacular cut-outs was born.
The exhibition represents a once-in-a-lifetime chance to see so many of the artist’s works in one place and discover Matisse’s final artistic triumph.
In his late sixties, when ill health first prevented Matisse from painting, he began to cut into painted paper with scissors to make drafts for a number of commissions. In time, Matisse chose cut-outs over painting: he had invented a new medium.
From snowflowers to dancers, circus scenes and a famous snail, the exhibition showcases a dazzling array of 120 works made between 1936 and 1954. Bold, exuberant and often large in scale, the cut-outs have an engaging simplicity coupled with incredible creative sophistication.
The exhibition marks an historic moment, when treasures from around the world can be seen together. Tate’s The Snail 1953 is shown alongside its sister work Memory of Oceania 1953 and Large Composition with Masks 1953 at 10 metres long. A photograph of Matisse’s studio reveals that these works were initially conceived as a unified whole, and this is the first time they will have been together since they were made. Matisse’s famous series of Blue Nudes represent the artist’s renewed interest in the figure.
London is first to host, before the exhibition travels to New York at the Museum of Modern Art and after which the works return to galleries and private owners around the world.
These are extraordinarily forward-looking works. They are more like installations or environments than paintings; and they seem very contemporary now. They were a way of collapsing line and colour; at the same time they were a kind of sculpture – carving into pure colour. Nicholas Cullinan, Curator
Henri Matisse’s eye popping colour cut-outs are brought together for a blockbuster show at Tate Modern The Sunday Times
A sense of joyous celebration almost unmatched in the history of art. Unmissable The Spectator
It will be startling and spectacular The Observer
An important and eagerly awaited survey of the 20th century master Telegraph
Matisse’s greatest works – mouth watering. Evening Standard
Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs is curated by Nicholas Cullinan, Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Nicholas Serota, Director with Flavia Frigeri, Assistant Curator, Tate and at the Museum of Modern Art, New York by Jodi Hauptman, Curator, Department of Drawings, and Karl Buchberg, Senior Conservator, with Samantha Friedman, Assistant Curator.