Matisse #1: Tate Modern Cut-Outs

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The Tate Modern has a flair for creating public interest, an ability that now characterises the modern art world. Their highly publicised exhibitions become ‘must-see’s, and the buzz created around said artist spans all forms of media. This excitement is palpable upon entering the Cut-Outs exhibition. The crowded rooms are full of pushing and shoving as a battleground is created to chance a peek at the well-loved work of Mr Henri Matisse.

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This jostle for space is no surprise, whilst it is easy to acknowledge the gallery’s ability to put on show, the vibrant and colourful atmosphere of these rooms can only be attended to the cut-outs themselves. Aesthetically pleasing, and visually undemanding – this is modern art at is easiest to enjoy. Visitors from all corners of the globe, spanning all ages effortlessly swoop through room upon room of gouache collages that only increase in size and appeal.

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But acknowledging this general appeal should not belittle the work that is on show here. For uniting both art critics and scholars with three year old children in views of enjoyment and respect is no mean feat. And herein lies the beauty of Matisse’s later work. Whilst some (my darling father included) remained skeptical at the start of this curated series, I defy anyone to remain unconverted by the end; won over by his impressive large scale pieces that show an elegance and restraint unseen in the earlier Jazz series.

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There is a finesse to the organic forms and more muted tones that suggests at the tranquility and serenity often enjoyed by Henri in his garden at Vence. There is a subtle humour to his work that appeals to an older audience, whilst the immediacy and rawness of his earlier work captures a vitality often lost when one hits 70, sometimes even 50!

This exhibition clearly shows, as stated in Alastair Sooke’s book – a must-read on the topic, Henri entering a second life both physically and artistically.

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