Fireflies: May Masterpiece Visual Response: Matisse Cutouts         

May 16, 2012

May Masterpiece Visual Response: Matisse Cutouts

     In 1887, Henri Matisse, known as the master of color, went to school to become a lawyer.  He passed the bar examination and started out as a law clerk, but was not happy.  In 1889 he became very ill with appendicitis and his mother brought him paints to play with while he recovered.  Remarkably, his true passion came to life and, well, the rest is history!  We have his legacy of color to enjoy today!
     "Boy with Butterfly Net" by Matisse was the subject of our last blog.  Today we are going to look at Matisse's latter works and dive into a project young children will love!

May visual response to Henri Matisse
"Mother Playing with Child," sample
by Laura Bird Miller
     The last 14 years of Matisse's life were, pretty much, confined to a wheel chair after he had been diagnosed with cancer in 1941.  This did not dampen his creative spirit however; it simply brought to life the most admired and influential works of his career known as "cutouts."

Vast in scale (though not always in size) his cutouts were rich in color and bold in shape.

La Gerbe (right), multicolored leaves that resemble a spray of flowers, was completed a few months before his death. The artist who almost reinvented color in painting had by now found freedom in this beautiful simplicity.
Jazz (left,) a limited-edition book containing prints of colorful paper cut collages (cover above,) was published in 1947 and along with his colorful cutouts were his written thoughts.  Matisse wrote to a friend in late 1947, "There are wonderful things in real jazz, the talent for improvisation, the liveliness, the being at one with the audience."

Materials list:
1.  An array of colored papers, including black.  (may be scraps and pieces)
2.  A sheet of white card stock for each child (serves as a base for the cutouts)
3.  Liquid glue, glue sticks, glue paste (whatever you prefer)
4.  Scissors  (for the very young or those getting frustrated with scissors, tear the paper)
5.  A jazz CD (optional)
6.  A copy of the book Jazz (optional)

Step 1
Put on some jazz music (optional.) Show the students what Matisse looked like (photo below.)  Students love getting personal with the artists; it makes them feel like they know them!  Show them the Jazz book (if you have it.)

Step 2
Show the student(s) the sample(s.)  Many students will want to copy your sample.  Others will want to do their own thing.  This seems to be the case every lesson!

Step 3
Demonstrate how simple it is to make paper shapes, either by cutting random pieces or tearing them, and placing them on the paper.  For the sample above I did both, cut and tear.  The trick is to help them understand why they are doing it.  Otherwise, you will have the speedy student who throws the scraps on the paper and says proudly "I'm done!" as if it is a race and he won.

Matisse generally cut the shapes out freehand, using a small pair of scissors and saving both the item cut out and remaining scraps of paper. With the help of his assistant he would arrange and rearrange the colored cutouts until he was completely satisfied that the results. It took two years to complete twenty collages.

Demonstrate the objectives, which are to have the student cover the whole page of white card stock in layers of colorful shapes.  The pieces they put on should be ripped or cut randomly, arranged and rearranged until the page is pleasing to the eye.  Show them how to arrange and rearrange and what it looks like to put Red next to Green, Purple next to Yellow,  and Blue next to Orange.  Remember our introduction to Color Complements?  "When Orange meets Blue it says, 'How do you do!  You look nice today!' and Blue says back, 'And so do you!'  Complements when placed next to each other, make the color POP!  (See "Boy with Butterfly Fireflies Blog post.)  

1st layer of the sample above
Step 4
When you are happy with the arrangement, glue the pieces on.  Begin with the first layer of larger pieces gluing them down (above,) then add little pieces of ripped or cut pieces and glue them down (see my sample at the top of page, "Mother Playing with Child.")  Display, sway to the jazz music with your student(s), and enjoy!

Thank you for reading our Matisse blog!  Please remember you may use any portion of this but please give credit back!  A great deal of time goes into preparing these lessons!  
CLICK HERE for the resource link I used for this project.  I created "Color Complements" introduction for my students to help them remember this important color foundation concept. 

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