Room 11: Three large compositions

During the early 1950s Matisse made many ambitious large-scale works. Cut-outs in progress covered most available walls of his home and he was often working on several of them simultaneously, with cut shapes sometimes migrating across compositions.

What had attracted him to cut-outs originally – the ability to try out and rearrange compositions – grew in potential as he pushed the technique further.

Large Decoration with Masks was made as a design for a ceramic panel. Its pattern of natural forms suggests that Matisse was drawing on his memories of Moorish mosaics seen forty years previously. ‘It is such a consolation for me to have achieved this at the end of my life,’ he wrote to his son.

Around the same time as he was considering this symmetrical and regularly patterned composition, Matisse was also using cut paper in quite different ways, in the bold physicality of Acrobats, for example. Here, when his own movement was so severely limited, Matisse chose to depict a body performing the extremes of flexibility and motion.

Family activity

Matisse had assistants who painted sheets of paper in colours he chose. When he had cut out shapes, they pinned them to the wall for him.

Lots of different processes went into making the works in these rooms. Have a look and see if you can find traces of:

  • slicing
  • snipping
  • ripping
  • cutting
  • tearing
  • pinning
  • gluing
  • layering
  • drawing

Download the full guide for families [PDF 535 Kb] and bring it with you on your visit to the exhibition, or you can pick up a copy at the exhibition entrance.