Composition and colour, Matisse’s Cut-Outs

Weekly Art Project: Week 3

Children’s text

Henri Matisse, The Codomas (Les Codomas) 1943, MOMA

From the 1940’s, Henri Matisse began cutting directly into coloured paper. He describe this as “cutting directly into vivid colour” or “drawing with scissors”. The works came to be known as Cut-Outs and form a significant body of late work by the one of the 20th centuries most extraordinary artists.

The process of making these works began as a means of laying out the designs for book covers and for the stage. Matisse later scaled up and began pinning shapes directly the wall. Studio assistants would use large brushes to paint the paper in the colours that Matisse required for the cut-outs. Matisse who was by then confined to a wheelchair, would have an assistant pin and unpin the cut-outs while Matisse played with the composition. Matisse frequently used colours for their harmonies and their contrasts.

Henri Matisse, The Parakeet and the Mermaid 1952, MOMA

Matisse would sometimes use both the positive cut out shape and negative left over shape in the same composition as you can see in the image below.

Henri Matisse, Composition, Black and Red (Composition, noir et rouge). 1947, MOMA

This project is the making of your own cut-out while exploring composition and colour relationships.

Find scrap paper or wrapping paper and a thicker cartridge paper you can stick the cut-outs onto. You can use the pattern or colour already on your paper or you can colour your paper with pastel or pencil.

Find some leaves and flowers, and use them to draw shapes onto the reverse side of the paper and then cut the shapes out. Keep the leftover cut paper which can be used as the a negative shape in your composition.

You can move the paper cut outs about until you settle upon a pleasing composition. Consider the space around the cut outs and the colour harmonies. Look for unusual but attractive combinations.

Marco Corsini, 2021

Children’s Text

Henri Matisse began cutting into coloured paper to make shapes. He then pinned them on a wall or glued them on paper to find new ways of creating beautiful images.

When making these works, Matisse frequently used colours that looked good together. You can see some of the works he did above. Can you see the bird shape hidden in the picture below?

This project is the making of your own cut-out picture.

Find scrap paper or wrapping paper and a thicker cartridge paper you can stick the cut-outs onto. You can use the pattern or colour already on your paper or you can colour your paper with pastel or pencil.

Find some leaves and flowers, and use them to draw shapes onto the reverse side of the paper and then cut the shapes out. Keep the leftover cut paper which can also be used as the a shape in your picture.

You can move the paper cut outs about until you find an image you like. Think about how your picture looks with space between the cut outs. Also think about how different colours and patterns look together. You can move everything around until you are happy with the composition and then you can glue them down on your cartridge paper.

Henri Matisse, The Parakeet and the Mermaid 1952, MOMA