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The Snail is one of the last and largest pieces in Matisse’s final series of works, known as cutouts. Confined to bed through illness, he had assistants paint sheets of paper in gouache which he then cut. The shell of a snail inspired the spiralling arrangement of roughly cut pieces of paper. Compared to his earlier paintings, Matisse believed that he had gained ‘greater completeness and abstraction’ in the cutouts. ‘I have attained a form filtered to its essentials’, he remarked.

April 2012