My Boys were given a ‘do-it-yourself’ Matisse snail kit for their first birthday.  It came complete with paper, scissors and glue.  They were a little too young to wield the scissors but we spent a happy hour with paper and glue, ending up with a result that looked nothing like Matisse. Now Tate Modern has queues around the block clamouring to see Matisse’s efforts.


Henri Matisse, The Snail 1953
Gouache on paper, cut and pasted on paper mounted to canvas © Succession Henri Matisse/DACS 2013

What started out as a technique to help Matisse plan the layout of his paintings developed into fully fledged works of art in their own right.  Initially Matisse went to great lengths to keep his technique secret but he reached a turning point with the publication of a book of his work ‘Jazz’.  We see both the original cut out models, or “maquettes”, and the finished book printed using the stencil method.  Originally it was intended that the work would illustrate poems but the flowing handwritten notes made by the artist proved to be so arresting that they were used instead.  I don’t understand a word that they say but they are very beautiful.


Henri Matisse, The Horse, the Rider, and the Clown 1943-4
© Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Jean-Claude Planchet
© Succession Henri Matisse/DACS 2013

One of the most familiar images in the exhibition is the Blue Nudes.  Unlike all the other works in the exhibition which are essentially collages, the Blue Nudes are cut from one piece of blue painted paper.  Blue Nude IV was the last to be completed but the first to be started; you can see small charcoal marks and jagged edges where the shape went wrong.  By contrast the others are flowing, cut with confidence, once the plan was clear.

Henri Matisse

Henri Matisse, Blue Nude (I) 1952
Foundation Beyeler, Riehen/Basel, Photo: Robert Bayer, Basel
© Succession Henri Matisse/DACS 2013

Remembering the happy hour of glue and scissors ten years ago I returned home determined to have a go myself.  Son Number Two declined the opportunity but Son Number One and I whiled away an hour and produced our own interpretation of Acanthus.

Acanthus after Matisse by C&J WIlliams

Acanthus after Matisse by C&J WIlliams

No modern museum is complete without a tearoom and Tate Modern has at least four.  All offer competent tea and coffee and the sixth floor restaurant has stunning views of St Pauls and the City.  If you feel the need to stretch your legs, then Borough Market with its countless Street Food stalls is a ten minute stroll along the riverbank.

HENRI MATISSE: THE CUT-OUTS – 17 April – 7 September 2014
Tate Modern, Bankside, London SE1 9TG
Admission:  Adult £18, Concession £16, Under 12s go free



  1. susannabritmums
    February 3, 2016 / 8:04 pm


Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: