As the blockbuster exhibition of Matisse’s paper cut-outs drew to a close on the 7th September, Tate has since announced that it has become the most popular show in their history, attracting more than half a million visitors. 562,600 people went to the Tate Modern in London to see the groundbreaking exhibition, which also makes it one of the most popular paid-for exhibitions in Britain for decades. I was lucky enough to be one of those 562,600 people who witnessed the beauty of Matisse's last years of work, and I know first hand why this particular showcase has captured the public’s imagination in such a profound way.
Henri Matisse (1869-1954) is one of the most iconic artists of the twentieth century who brought a whole new concept of colour to the art world. For the last 17 years of his life, he developed an entirely new approach by carving directly into colour with a giant pair of scissors. From small studies that show him using cut-outs as compositional tools for paintings, to his prophetic final works, Matisse’s genius surges, growing room by room as the works themselves become ever more ambitious.
Every single room in the exhibition from start to finish was a joy to explore and 2 hours went by in a flash. From mermaids to dancers, circus scenes and a famous snail, the exhibition showcases an impressive range of 120 works made between 1936 and 1954.
I knew the exhibition was going to be something special, but what I wasn't prepared for was the way in which I would be emotionally touched by it. It was such a joyous and fascinating collection and it has stayed close to the forefront of my mind for weeks after visiting the galley - also becoming the only exhibition I've felt inclined to buy the accompanying book from! Matisse wanted “anyone tired, worn down, driven to the limits of endurance, to find calm and repose” in his art. In this he certainly succeeded. I left the exhibition inspired to start practical art again, what more can you ask of an exhibition?
I'm no stranger to exhibitions but there was something about the fact that at a time in his life where Matisse was very unwell, he managed to not only carry on his artistic career, but reach new heights of creative triumph. There can't be many people who left the exhibition this summer that didn't want to replace their home decor with the vibrancy and excitement of Matisse's cut outs.