Director of Tate, Nicholas Serota, introduces a major exhibition of Matisse's cut-outs coming to Tate Modern this spring, and explains why this show is one-in-a-lifetime

Nicholas Serota, Director of Tate
Nicholas Serota, Director of Tate

Welcome to the first blog post on the Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition, which opens at Tate Modern on 17 April. Henri Matisse is one of the pioneers of modern art, and the exhibition curated by Nicholas Cullinan, Flavia Frigeri and me with colleagues in New York, explores the final chapter in his career in which he began ‘carving into colour’ and his spectacular cut-outs were born. 

Our Matisse exhibition will be the first and perhaps only time that 120 of Matisse’s cut-outs have been assembled in one place from collections around the world - a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the full scope of these late works in all their colourful, vibrant glory.

Henri Matisse The Horse, the Rider and the Clown 1943–1944
Henri Matisse
The Horse, the Rider and the Clown 1943–4

I have found in co-curating this show a new and deepened admiration for Matisse’s work. In his final years, confined to his bed through ill-health, he created vibrant, joyful pieces with a staggering freedom of expression. These wonderful works have an engaging simplicity coupled with incredible creative sophistication. They are among the most treasured works in the museums from which they are coming. 

Over the coming weeks in this blog, Flavia Frigeri will be sharing a detailed look at the exhibition and chart the development of Matisse’s invention of the cut-out as a new medium over painting. You will be able to respond directly to her posts, so please do tell us what you think.


Enjoyed the exhibition very much. Vibrant colours and movement in simple, thrilling designs.


Despite being a bit too crowded, the amazing exhibition is keeping your eyes and mind fully concentrate on Matisse's art. Thinking about the artist absorbed in these colourful creativity over his final years is inspiring! I really loved walking through every sigle room and I will definitively come back as many times as possible! Thanks tomeveryone who took part in the organization

Fantastic exhibition! Matisse......amazing.......artist!!

It was our first time at Tate Modern, so maybe our expectations were too high or the rooms were too crowded ...

The works of Matisse are superb x ², impressed by the number of artworks brought together, but we were (even very much) disappointed about the way the works are presented (probably because of the closed rooms and architecture) and the very huge crowd of visitors.

I loved Matisse's paintings (saw Matisse Picasso exhibition at the Tate Modern back in 2002) and knew of Matisse's cut outs (my fave 'Icarus'). However, visiting tHis 'cut-outs' exhibition has made me realise what a true genius artists Matisse was. Very inspiring!

In my opinion no book or photograph truly captures the simple wonder of these formidable works. I went with sceptical eyes and to my surprise they have penetrated my soul. I had to come again because the exhibition is like the passing of a comet.