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PAPER CUT OUTS

By Amanda Wang

We all know Henri Matisse.

One of the most influential and revolutionary artists of the 20th century. During the last 13 years of his life, Matisse was confined to a wheelchair, but this did not stop the legendary artist from creating arguably some of the most famous artworks of all time. 

PAPER CUT OUTS
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Following colon surgery at the age of 71, Matisse could no longer work with an easel which evidently inspired this new second lease of life , The Paper Cut Outs.

 


He used these materials to create exuberant gardens, dancing figures, magnificent shapes, starry skylines and animal kingdoms. Wildly popular, his paper cut out compositions evolved magnificently throughout the last decade of his life and were created in both Paris and in the South of France.




P A I N T I N G 

Gouache - ‘A method of painting using opaque pigments ground in water and thickened with a glue-like substance’. 



The colour on Matisse’s paper was made using Gouache paint. Not all sheets of paper were painted in the same way. For some, layers of gouache were applied more heavily and others more finely where brush strokes were still apparent. 


The large sheets that had several applications of paint were then either hung on the wall to dry or laid out on tables or on the floor. 

A lengthy process but absolutely worth it to provide the most vibrant and effective paper cut outs.

  

C U T T I N G 

Using oversized scissors, ones that perhaps would be used for fabric, Matisse would cut through the paper as his assistant would rotate the sheet so the artist could keep to the same consistency.

 




 

As the cut out drops to the floor, this is when we see the shapes come to life as its negative appears sliding away from the blade. The cut therefore creates a positive and a negative offering an alternative use for each shape.

 


Although this technique may seem fairly simple, to Matisse this expanded the overall possibilities of the final composition. The organic nature of cutting and reversing shapes allowed Matisse to create endless and ongoing combinations and re-combinations.  

 




C O M P O S I N G 


Once the paper sheets had been painted and cut, next came the pinning and composing. Using small pins or thumb tacks, Matisse would secure the smaller formats on boards whilst sitting in his chair or in bed.

Pin holes still remain visible as evidence in many of his works. Studio walls became the support for his larger compositions. This gave Matisse a vast field of vision to see where everything should be placed. He would give orders to his studio assistant so they would know exactly where to place each shape or where to move it too. 


There more often compositions were changed the more small pin holes in each shape. 



Matisse constantly reviewed, rethought and refigured his work. This metamorphosis of compositions and constant migration of forms from one grouping to another created endless possibilities and styles of artworks. This playful process can be seen in many of his works to date. 



‘CHOICE OF COLOUR, CUTTING AND ARRANGING THE COMPOSITIONS REMAIN THE CENTRAL CREATIVE ACTS OF THE CUT OUTS

-- Matisse 

 

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