The researcher behind our first ever live broadcast cinema event, Matisse Live, explores how the artist’s childhood exposure to colour and love of ballet are being brought to life on film - with a little help from the Royal Opera House

Alicia Markova and Henri Matisse as Matisse designs his costumes for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo production of Rouge et Noir

Alicia Markova and Henri Matisse as the artist designs costumes for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo production of Rouge et Noir. Choreography by Leonide Massine. Circa 1939.

Photo: From the film BALLET RUSSES by Geller/Goldfine Productions, Zeitgeist Films

One of our ambitions in making Matisse Live is to create an event unique to the cinema, as well as to bring our Matisse cut-outs exhibition to those who can’t visit Tate Modern. To help us, we’ve commissioned British choreographer and dancer Will Tuckett of the Royal Opera House to create a brand new work, which draws on two important influences in Matisse’s life – his love of dance and ballet, and his experience of colourful textiles during childhood.

Matisse was fascinated by dance throughout his life. One of his greatest works, The Dance, from 1909-1910, depicts the rhythm of nature and movement in a ring of five dancers. Later, in 1937, Matisse began to design the scenery and costumes for the ballet Rouge et Noir, set to Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony #1, by Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo choreographer Léonide Massine. Matisse suggested Shostakovich’s music could be interpreted into five colours, which Massine then gave symbolic meanings: white for man and woman, yellow for wickedness, blue for nature, red for materialism and black for violence.

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  • Matisse Live Tate Modern Will Tuckett Royal Opera House dancers costumes being dyed 2014 London

    Freshly dyed costumes hanging to dry

    © Alexey Moskvin 2014

  • Blue dye being prepared Matisse for Live Tate Modern Will Tuckett Royal Opera House dance 2014

    Blue dye being prepared

    © Alexey Moskvin 2014

  • Blue dye being assessed for Matisse Live Tate Modern Will Tuckett Royal Opera House dancer's costumes

    Blue dye being assessed whilst dying a costume

    © Alexey Moskvin 2014

  • Amy dyeing of the blue costume for Matisse Live Tate Modern Will Tuckett Royal Opera House dance 2014

    Amy Clark dyeing the blue costume

    © Alexey Moskvin 2014

  • One costume being dyed by Amy Clark for Matisse Live Tate Modern Will Tuckett Royal Opera House dancers 2014 London

    Blue costume being dyed by Amy Clark

    © Alexey Moskvin 2014

  • Amy Clark matching Pantone colour Matisse Live Tate Modern Will Tuckett Royal Opera House dancers costumes being dyed

    Amy Clark matching Pantone colours with the fabric by eye

    © Alexey Moskvin 2014

  • Fabric swatch being matched with Pantone colours for Matisse Live Tate Modern Will Tuckett Royal Opera House dance 2014

    Fabric swatch being matched with Pantone colours

    © Alexey Moskvin 2014

  • Swatches of costume fabric dyed in different shades of blue Matisse Live Tate Modern Will Tuckett Royal Opera House dance 2014

    Swatches of costume fabric dyed in different shades of blue

    © Alexey Moskvin 2014

  • Costume fabric sample being dyed blue for Matisse Live Tate Modern Will Tuckett Royal Opera House dance 2014

    Costume fabric sample being dyed blue

    © Alexey Moskvin 2014

  • Fabric swatches being compared for their shades of dye colour for Matisse Live Tate Modern Will Tuckett Royal Opera House dance

    Dyed pink and orange fabric swatches being compared for their shades of colour

    © Alexey Moskvin 2014

Will’s dance – which will debut in Matisse Live broadcast on 3 June – will also be set to Shostakovich and feature costumes in five colours, in a subtle nod to Matisse and Massine. Using the colours in Matisse’s cut-out’s as inspiration, we chose black, blue, green, orange and pink. In the finished dance, we’ll layer multiple shots of one dancer wearing five different ‘Matisse coloured’ costumes over a white background - so it will be like a moving Matisse cut-out!

Matisse was exposed to a world of colours and fabrics from a young age. The artist grew up in the textile town of Bohain-en-Vermandois in Picardy, Northern France; which in the late nineteenth century was a major centre of the French textile industry, visited by fashion designers such as Coco Chanel. So whilst there was no gallery in Bohain to teach Matisse about art as a child, it’s evident he was surrounded by strong colours that would stay with him throughout his life.

Henri Matisse The Cut-Outs installation The Parakeet and the Mermaid 2014

View of The Parakeet and the Mermaid 1952 during installation of Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs at Tate Modern

Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
Photo: Alexey Moskvin

When it came to dyeing our dancer’s costumes, I felt it was important that we get the ‘Matisse colours’ as close as possible to those in his cut-outs. With the exception of black, we based our colours on those in the cut-out The Parakeet and the Mermaid. I then worked with our design department to gather the correct Pantone colour references, to get the hues as close as we could to Matisse’s. Next, I got to work with textile designer Amy Clark to acid dye the Lycra costumes and colour match them by eye, using a swatch guide to achieve the instantly recognisable clean, bright colours of Matisse.

The dance will be performed by Zenaida Yanowsky, Principal ballet dancer at The Royal Ballet, which according to Will, is ‘delicate yet precise, with movement classically based and entirely led by the music in its form.’ We think Matisse would approve.

Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs is on display at Tate Modern until 7 September

Matisse Live will be broadcast live on 3 June in cinemas across the UK. Book now

Comments

I booked to see this at Stratford Upon Avon and the cinema failed to get the connection so we couldn't see it - very frustrating to say the least.

Is there any way we can see the content of the live broadcast now that it's over please? Will you screen an Encore? Really, really hope so please!

Dear Christina,

Thank you for your interest in Matisse Live from Tate Modern. I'm writing from Seventh Art Productions, the production company that produced the film.

We're trying our best to set-up an encore screening however, if this fails we will send you a DVD. I'll let you know either way.

Thanks again,

Becky

Hi Christina, Are there any plans coming together for an encore screening of this event or a DVD release ? I would really love to see it too.

Hi David,

Thanks very much for your interest in Matisse Live. You can find out more information on encore screenings and DVD release directly from the Seventh Art Productions website, which you can view here: http://www.exhibitiononscreen.com/matisse

Many thanks again,

Susan Holtham, Assistant Editor, Digital Content