Henri-Émile-Benoît Matisse was born on December 31, 1869 in northern France. His father was a successful grain merchant. Matisse went to law school and practiced briefly. When he was 20, he had appendicitis and his mother brought him a set of paints to keep him busy while he was recovering. He said that he discovered “a kind of paradise” during those days and abandoned law to study art. This was a bitter disappointment to his father, but Henri moved to Paris where he studied painting in the traditional style. In the next decade, he became friends with a then unknown VanGogh and started to follow the work of Cezanne and Gauguin. He quickly became a leader in the new styles of art. In 1898, he married Amélie Noellie Parayre and had 2 sons, he also had a daughter. Amelie and his daughter modeled for several of his works.
Around 1906, he was introduced to Pablo Picasso and the two became lifelong friends and rivals. Together, they are credited with defining modern art. During this time, he traveled to Morocco, Spain, Algiers, and Tangiers, ultimately settling in Nice. In 1939, he and Amalie divorced. Another of his common models, a Russian named Lydia Delectorskaya became his companion and worked with him, running the studio, keeping records and correspondence for the rest of his life. Matisse stayed in Paris and was able to work through WWI.
In 1941, he was diagnosed with abdominal cancer and was bedridden after surgery. He couldn’t paint and sculpt as he had before. A few times in earlier years, he had used collage for projects. Now, he began cutting paper that Lydia had painted bright colors into whimsical designs. Initially, they were small in scale, but soon they became mural-sized. He would direct assistants how to place the “cut-outs” in room-sized works. He used this technique to design the stained glass and interior of a small chapel in the French Riviera. He died of a heart attack in 1954. His children continued to work in the art world during their lives and the influence of his work can still be seen in modern art today!
We will make our own cut-outs like Matisse did. You can make your cut-out as simple or intricate as you’d like. Here are a few tips to make it easier:
You can plan out what you want to do with a rough sketch on a piece of scratch paper, but it isn’t mandatory.
Cut or tear the paper to give it different textures. You can fold the paper and then tear it to control where it tears more easily. You can also hold the paper with one finger, while using your other hand to pull the other side of the paper down to create a tear with a bigger edge.
Combine cuts and tears to give an interesting texture.
Arrange the pieces on the paper before gluing anything down to make sure you like the final design. When you are happy with the way it looks, glue everything in place.
After you are done hold the paper up and give it a little shake, make sure all of the pieces are secure.