Narrator: The Snail is a paper cut-out made by Matisse towards the end of his life. There are 22 different paper pieces here - all brightly coloured with watery gouache paint. Matisse called works like these cut-outs rather than collages because the act of cutting the paper itself was such an important part of the design. Tate conservator Rosie Freemantle:
RF: "The cut-outs themselves are actually white paper that have been hand-painted by assistants - or, well, one story goes that they were actually house-painters that Matisse employed to paint out different colours onto these large sheets of paper which he then stock-piled in his studio. And you can see the streaks on the surface of the works which became quite important to Matisse, specially in his later works and actually sometimes dictated the direction in which he cut the sheets out.
It also emphasised the hand-made nature of the object which of course he was keen to do. And you can see the roughness of the way that these works are constructed to a certain degree. There are stories about the way they were pinned the works to the wall in his studio and the breezes in the summer coming through the window in his studio and blowing these gently and they'd rustle in the wind. There was a lot of moving about, re-pinning, and all the edges of the cut-outs have got little tears and marks and scrapes - and folds in some cases on the surface - small mechanical damages but they're just messages to show you how the works were made.
Actually I have a really strong image of Matisse, there are pictures of him sitting up in a chair or in bed, cutting out his cut-outs on a smaller scale. But he really used big scissors no matter what he was cutting. He didn't muck around with nail scissors or anything of that sort! But he called them "cutting shears" and they really were almost like garden scissors. And I can imagine him chomping through these big pieces of paper. Apparently the thickness of this paper was important to him - the resistance that he gave while he was cutting it so they're not lightweight papers by any means."