Live from the Tate behind the scenes of the Matisse cut-outs at the Komedia. The Director of the Tate Nicholas Serota was on hand to inform us that it had been his passion to have this exhibition for 30 years and that it had been 5 years in the planning.
Francine Stock incorporated interviews with experts and friends of the artist and wonderful archive footage of Matisse at work.
Of course there was his famous snail and it was intriguing to learn that he started this project by drawing a snail from nature. For me four cut-outs of the female form in blue that have never been displayed together before are one of the most memorable exhibits. The exhibition brings together 120 Matisse pieces from around the world, ‘ a joyous celebration of colour and shape’.
Memory of Oceania developed from the undulating forms of jazz but took its imagery of coral, fish and sponges from Matisse’s memories of a trip to Tahiti.
A photograph of Matisse’s studio reveals that these works were conceived as a unified whole, and now they are on display for the first time for over 50 years. There was a brilliant piece of film of Zenaida Yanowsky, the principle dancer at the Royal Ballet, and a great piece of jazz music from Courtney Pine, both inspired by the work of this artist.
Matisse often had to work from his bed after a serious operation, those huge scissors cutting the coloured paper with such dedication. His assistants placed the cut-outs in a way that brought to life his artistic endeavours.
Matisse is an artist that I know little about as I was immersed in the Impressionists as a art student later in life. This exhibition is a revelation as well as an inspiration, the competitive nature of Matisse and Picasso intriguing although they were also friends. It also shows how the creative spirit can stay alive in an artist into extreme old age.
The Virgin and Child, made in 1950 as part of the Rosaire chapel in France, is partially recreated in a room at the Tate – Matisse we learn used a very long bamboo cane, attaching charcoal to its tip with which he drew. “Eventually, third time around, he got the design right,” says Flavia Frigeri, one of the enthusiastic co-curators. The staff of the Tate were passionate and informative and I can’t possibly do justice to this exhibition but, having seen this presentation, I know I will be going up to the Tate to see it in real life very soon.