29 August 2014

Matisse Cut-Outs at Tate Modern

Matisse Cut-Outs at Tate Modern was probably THE "must see" exhibition of the Summer in London and despite being fully aware of this is still took me until almost the end of its long run to find the time to go to see it. And then I had to take a day off and combine it with an evening event to make space for it.

I went in with few preconceptions as I claim no great knowledge of painting and while I had heard of Matisse I could not name anything by him or even describe his style.

My original plan was to go there for 2pm but when I went to buy tickets that morning the earliest slot that I could get was at 4pm, so I went for that. That still left plenty of time for the exhibition before moving on to the theatre, even allowing two and a half hours for the tour, which was how long Paul Klee took last year.

I arrived not long after 3pm, as intended, and started with a coffee and some cake in preparation for spending a long time on my feet.

The exhibition opened by showing how Matisse got in to cut-outs almost by accident. He first used them to plan his paintings, e.g. when doing a still-life he could arrange the objects on the canvass to see how best to position them. From there they grew to become the picture. This step was encouraged when ill health made painting difficult.

Being cut-outs there was a strong physical element to the work even though they were two-dimensional. Looking at the pieces carefully revealed  the many pin holes created as the pieces were tried in different positions, the way that the pictures will built up with layers of colour and the way that the pieces of paper were cut and torn to work and rework the shapes.

Broadly speaking there were two kinds of work, those that relied solely on shape and colour, such as the large piece above and those that portrayed something physical, such as the work on the right.

This is The Creole Dancer from 1950 when Matisse was 81, he died just three years later. It stood an impressive 2m tall by just over 1m wide and grabbed my attention. It was my favourite piece by some distance.

What the exhibition made up for in scale of the works it lacked in the variety. There was no great progression in Matisse's style and little change in his subject matter. It was not quite "if you've seen one, you've seen them all" but the familiarity between the works made it a quicker journey than it was for Paul Klee. I had allowed two and a half hours and it took one and a half. That was still a fair chunk of time and it was still a good exhibition, it just paled a little in comparison to Klee.

That comparison continued in to the shop which was packed with Matisse goods (I pushed the boat out and bought a postcard of The Creole Dancer) but at the end of the Klee run it looked like Old Mother Hubard's cupboard.

The slight misgivings were only slight and Matisse Cut-Outs was a jolly fine exhibition. It was informative, engaging and, at times, striking.

1 comment:

  1. I saw it on the 31st, also kept wanting to go… I've got their Matisse app since, which is the multimedia tour. My favourite works were Mimosa, the "His Art…" book cover and another one which is not in the book I bought. Quite inspiring and so I'm attempting some postcards for a local art sale.

    The Malevich exhibition looks up my street too, but that is for another day.


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