The fabulous pictures from his cut-out period are so bold; modern, but not minimalistic or stark, and it was a joyful experience to walk through the rooms. And there are many — 11 rooms and 130 pictures — making this is a very generous show. It reminded me of the recent Paul Klee show at the Tate which was also bountiful, letting us experience Klee in his many self- inventions. Now we get to experience Henri-Emile Benoit Matisse in all of his glory and appreciate what a fine artist he was.
In this groundbreaking show, Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs, we are shown his new approach after a great personal calamity — his health impeded his work, and he was unable to paint in the way he had so successfully over so many years. (After all, Matisse had exhibited with Picasso in 1918). But Matisse reinvented himself by creating by cutting out shapes of gouaches and sticking them together to make a picture, almost child-like, and with a child’s innocent joy. It is this joy, I think, that we pick up. It resonates with us, and we take it away with us.
As Nicholas Serota says, "These are the most compelling works Matisse ever made…they have an apparent simplicity which is unbelievably engaging but they are hugely sophisticated… the sheer exuberance of the material ..."
This is the first time we can see the four Blue Nudes together in a room, which is a wonderful experience. To imagine that he did these pictures aged 82, two years before his death. But you really must take your time to amble through all the rooms and find your own favourite, be it The Parakeet and the Mermaid, the simply delightful early jazz maquettes like the well known Icarus, or colourful, decorative commissions like The Sheaf or Aranthus. All full of joy and love of life. Enjoy!
For those unable to see the exhibit in London, you can view it in cinemas on 3 June 2014.