Tate’s much-loved artwork The Snail by Henri Matisse will be reunited with its companion works in Tate Modern’s big summer 2014 show

Henri Matisse, 'The Snail' 1953
Henri Matisse
The Snail 1953
Gouache on paper, cut and pasted on paper mounted on canvas
support: 2864 x 2870 mm
Purchased with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1962© Succession Henri Matisse/DACS 2010

A photograph of Matisse’s studio has revealed that The Snail, Memory of Oceania (now at MoMA in New York) and Large Composition with Masks (National Gallery of Art, Washington, all 1953) were conceived as a unified whole. This exhibition will be the first time they have been together since they were made.

Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs is the most comprehensive exhibition ever devoted to the highly productive final chapter of his career. When ill health prevented Matisse from painting, he began to make works by cutting shapes from paper painted with gouache, then rearranging them with the help of assistants. Matisse surrounded himself with cut-outs, pinning them to the walls of his studios as they were made.

The first cut-outs were created for the book Jazz 1947 and allowed him to exactly control the way the colours would print. In the final six years of his life, he abandoned painting completely.

The exhibition will include around 120 works, including the largest number of the famous Blue Nudes ever exhibited together.

Nicholas Serota, Tate’s director and curator of the exhibition, said he was amazed by the scale and range of the works: ‘People sometimes say these could be done by a child, but it’s only an old man that has this incredible freedom of mind.’

Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs runs at Tate Modern, 17 April – 7 September 2014.