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From small cut-outs to cathedral magnificence: Matisse at the Tate Modern, London.
Elijah & Jack Newhouse – Wednesday, 16th April 2014.
“Henry Matisse: The Cut-Outs” is a significant exhibition about the French artist, in London. The Tate Modern show follows step by step the discovery of a new means of expression and its evolution directly from the inner of the painter.
Matisse was part of the movement of Fauvism, and he kept from the style the usage of explosive colours and exaltation of gentle forms. Starting from “Jazz”, the book containing the famous “Icarus”, the Tate Modern exhibition progress in a crescendo that leads to the projects of the Chapelle du Rosaire de Vence (France).
The primary idea of the Matisse’s style takes its origins from the collaboration with the magazine Verve. But it is “Jazz” (1947) that contains the warning signs of a style Matisse will adopt until the end of his life. Gouache on paper works started to be produced during the years 1937-38, from The Dancers to the famous Icarus (1943-44). Jazz is displayed in all its beauty in Room 3.
In 1946, Matisse comes up to a new widen approach, beginning to create directly on the walls of his studio. From that summer’s works, we can admire on room number 4, Oceania. Visitors can find themselves in a ship, in a spaceship, which brought together the sky and the sea, all in one only collage. And for the entire exhibition we have the feeling to admire the walls of the Matisse’s studio. In this show, more than any other, the subdivision in rooms is really appropriate.
A wall of the studio of Matisse, recreated in room 5, allows to see all the little pictures made of cut-outs, as a single work, which was staying out in front of the eyes of the painter night and day. This vision would take him to push the art of collage to the highest levels.
The vision unravelled in room 7: the cathedral. It is a volumetric epiphany, or better, the process of the making of. But then Matisse started to produce large-scale compositions. The sweetness and the grace that is not always possible to find in such monumental works. Even the most square shapes are sharp and full of tenderness and clarity (e.g. The Bees).
In room 10 we have the human forms of the sculptures and the blue nudes. Cut out from the cathedral, passing through the human
figure. During the infinite artist’s research, starting from the first cuttings, there are also developments of the human figure. The extreme reduction of the details let them be the silhouettes to give all the poetic power. The blue colour, the opposite of human skin makes these supernatural works, outside of time and space, in a kind of design of man (or rather woman).
Matisse was very accurate about colours. Everything had to be studied in detail as it was conceived.
Like all the most significant artists, Matisse, when becoming old, came back to a sort of infantilism and began to cut, paste, reducing the forms to a minimum and with incredible elegance gave milestones to the history of art. In the exhibition the visitor can live room after room as to be in the studio where Matisse lived and worked. People can see how, from materials that seem suitable for children, a great artist create wonderful masterpieces, he reaches the peak of its maturity. This is the cut-out medium.
Being impossible to have the real presence of the artist himself, however Matisse is present. As he said: an artist should never be a prisoner of himself, prisoner of style, prisoner of reputation, prisoner of success.
Matisse got rid of all unnecessary preconceptions, and thanks to this exhibition visitors can experience the dimension of the freedom he had found.
The exibition “Henry Matisse: The cut-Outs” is running at the Tate Modern, London, from 17th April until 7th September 2014.