Matisse: the Cut-Outs

On a recent trip to NYC we visited MoMA to see the Henri Matisse exhibition, The Cut-Outs.

The exhibition focuses on the large scale cut-out works created during the later years of Matisse’s life. Made by a process Matisse described as “drawing with scissors,” the works consist of gouache painted paper that has been cut and arranged in striking compositions. Although the collection in its entirety was outstanding we were appropriately drawn to the large works Matisse made for the walls of his own home.

The Swimming Pool, is a dance of diving blue shapes on a white paper band created to ring the walls of the artists’ burlap papered dinning room. The piece has been carefully restored and is currently displayed on burlap and at its intended height to recreate the physical effect it had in its original space. Check out MoMA’s video about the conservation of this piece, Henri Matisse: Conserving The Swimming Pool.

The Swimming Pool, 1952.


The Swimming Pool, 1952


The Swimming Pool in Matisse's dinning room at the Hotel Regina in Paris, 1952.


Another work that caught our eye was Oceania, the Sky and Oceania, the Sea born on the walls of Matisse’s apartment at the Boulevard Montparnasse. Matisse cut and pinned shapes of sparrows and jellyfish, inspired by his time in Tahiti, creating his own wallpaper of sorts. In fact, the design was translated into a screen-printed textile in limited production.

Oceania, the Sky and Oceania, the Sea on the walls of Matisse's studio. 1946


Oceania, the Sky and Oceania, the Sea in progress, 1946.


Matisse’s walls became an ever-changing, canvas for his cut-outs and therefore a physical cultivation of the ideas he was expressing through his “drawing with scissors.” Much like we do, Matisse filled his personal and professional space with what inspired him, which enabled him to live within his own creations at a time in his life when his ability to travel and explore was limited by illness. Maybe, if we think like Matisse, our walls can become more than just structure. Maybe they can be a platform of our own self expression. What would that mean for our homes? What kind of possibilities could that open up for our wallpapers?