Henry Matisse: The Cut-Outs has been described by director of the Tate Galleries Nicholas Serota as a-once-in-a-lifetime show and oui, it really is. Bringing for the first time together almost 130 Art works, this exhibition deeply explores the last chapter of Matisse’s career.

Henry Matisse (1869-1954) is one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. What makes his oeuvre particularly fascinating is the way it embraces various techniques and elegantly moves from a concept to another, from a subject to another. Yet always without losing his special and unique traits.

Diagnosed with cancer, Matisse spent the last seventeen years of his life on a wheelchair. He could no longer paint. Despite health problems, this phase of his life corresponded instead to a new approach to making work, that of cutting shapes from painted paper.

“It is no longer the brush that slips and slides over the canvas, it is the scissor that cut into the paper and into the colour. The conditions of the journey are 100 per cent different.The contour of the figure springs from the discovery of the scissors that give it the movement of circulating life. This tool doesn’t modulate, it doesn’t brush on, but it incises in, underline this well, because the criteria of observation will be different”

The process behind this new “paint with scissors” technique is as simple as it appears: draw, cut, and stick. Yet the composition of lines, figures, and colours is extraordinary and remains with neither precedent nor parallel. By juxtaposing small gems such as Icarus and The Horse with monumental works like The Snail and Oceania, the exhibition perfectly displays the development of the cut out method. In fact, as Matisse’s experience and skills with these paper cut outs increased, so did the scale of his works. Room by room pieces become more ambitious and the show reaches its climax with the famous quartet of Blue Nudes, made by Matisse at the age of 82.

Wandering in such vortex of colours and figures gives a sense of fluidity and almost complete harmony which well mirrors Matisse’s joy in his new or rather “second life”. The exhibition is vast and the experience is somehow magical: truly, it’s a journey into Matisse’s creativity which transcends the boundaries of conventional drawing, painting and sculpture. Yes, it is a once-in-a- life time show and teaches us that, to borrow Matisse’s words, “creativity takes courage”.

Henry Matisse: The Cut-Outs is on view until September at Tate Modern (London) and it will then travel to the Museum of Modern Art (New York).

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