Last week I spent a lovely sunny day in London to see the Matisse: Cut Outs exhibition at Tate Modern.
This collection of work spans the last 17 years of Matisses life as he turned from painting to paper cutting due to ill-health and poor mobility. He had initially used paper cutting as a technique for exploring and rearranging still-life objects before committing them to paint and it’s this technique that he developed into his swan song.
I was surprised to find that as he grew older (and poorer in health ) that his achievements got larger and grander.
I think because his work is so deep-seated in our visual memories, that it is hard to be surprised by it because it feels like you’ve seen it before (a lot) and as it’s a style that has been so well adopted into art as we know it, it’s even harder to appreciate that it may have been ground-breaking at some time in the past. Some of his pieces are just about sixty years old where as to me, that seem to be older because of the documentation they’ve had.
But up close in person, they are clever in their painterly quality – the collage papers were hand painted to his specific colour instructions and so have interesting wash lines and tones to them. They are also cleverly abstract whist also having recognisable forms.
Glad I went to see it – it reminds what can be achieved when you keep things simple and what an inspiration he was to battle ill-health and age and still find a vehicle to express his creativity.