LONDON PRINT STUDIO: Drawing with Scissors, Henri Matisse

Showing until 11th June at London Print Studio is Drawing with Scissors, an exhibition of prints by the French painter, sculptor and designer, Henri Matisse. These vibrant works are the result of his innovative use of basic materials and techniques, cutting simple shapes in block colours from paper hand-painted with gouache.

Matisse’s cutouts were made during the last four years of his life, when his ability to paint and sculpt had deteriorated somewhat, compelling him to find another means of making art which required less physical exertion, while retaining the same concern for composition, colour, form and space.

Above: Henri Matisse Making Cutouts, 1947, Archive Photos/Getty Images & Apollon, 1953

Arguably, the work produced by Matisse in his last years was some of his most colourful and exciting, continuing in his signature style but refined in its medium to rudimentary materials. To create these cutouts Matisse worked with assistants who aided in the creative process by preparing the painted papers and arranging the forms Matisse cut out under his precise instruction.

Above: La Gerbe & Les Acanthes, 1953

Paper cutouts “allow me to draw in colour. Instead of drawing the outline and putting the colour inside it, I draw straight into the colour… scissors can acquire more feeling for line than pencil or charcoal” – Henri Matisse

Matisse discovered the potential of paper cutouts when planning designs for a mural and only later reflected on these works as pieces in their own right, as a way of resolving “the external conflict of drawing and colour.”

Above: Lierre en Fleur, 1953; Végétaux, 1952; Zulma, 1950

Once the forms had been cut out, Matisse’s assistants arranged and rearranged them until he was satisfied with the overall composition. This way of working enabled him to pursue his unique exploration of nature, colour and abstraction in later life, creating striking stylised representations of plant life and the human form.

Above: Nu Bleu Series, 1952

Matisse’s abstract and figurative cut out compositions were later lithographically printed exactingly, where the artist’s primary concern was for the accuracy and richness of colour, for which these alluring compositions are largely celebrated. In fact, the colours Matisse used we considered so intense that his doctor advised wearing dark glasses!

These iconic cutouts are testimony to Matisse’s unrelenting need to create and explore; he explained “cutting directly into colour reminds me of a sculptor’s carving into stone” and arguably a natural transition from his earlier three-dimensional practice.

Above: Souvenir D’Océanie, 1953 & Tristesse du Roi, 1952

To discover more about the highly influential artist and designer, Henri Matisse, and his original prints and paper cutouts, we recommend a visit to this exhibition at London Print Studio. Matisse: Drawing with Scissors is showing for just one more week, and is situated on Harrow Road, only a ten-minute walk from Westbourne Park Station.

Featured Image: Décoration, Masques, 1953