Room 1: Making the cut-outs

Matisse first used cut paper shapes to work out the arrangement of objects in his paintings. While working on a painting, he often made sketches exploring alternative points of view or versions of the composition. Making cut paper shapes and using a canvas as a pin board meant he could rearrange the various elements more easily.

Two of the works in this room are both titled Still Life with Shell. Matisse made the cut paper version to try to rethink the painting, to play with how the jug, Tahitian shell, apples, cup and coffee pot could be combined differently. The edge of the table is outlined with pieces of string which can also be moved and re-angled.

The cut-outs still retain a sense of movement, both through the trace of Matisse’s scissors and the ways in which he continually shifted and readjusted the shapes themselves.

The dynamism of Matisse’s technique can be seen in Adrien Maeght’s film of the artist wielding his scissors, also shown in this room.

Family activity

Matisse said that working with cut paper rather than paint made him look at the world differently.

Here are two artworks with the same title, showing the same objects. What differences do you notice between: the materials Matisse used? where things are placed? your reaction to each one?

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.