Visits- Matisse in Focus- Tate Liverpool.

As I couldn’t attend the organised trip to see Matisse in Focus with the OCA, I took myself last week to see ‘The Snail’ and have a wander about. I didn’t know much about the piece so I had a look on The Tate website and found this piece-

 ‘After 1948 Matisse was prevented from painting by ill health but, although confined to bed, he produced a number of works known as gouaches découpées. These were made by cutting or tearing shapes from paper which had been painted with gouache. The shapes were placed and pasted down by an assistant working under Matisse’s instruction. Some of the later ones, such as The Snail, were of very large dimensions. The technique, explored in his picture book Jazz (published 1947) and other works, opened up new possibilities for him. Matisse said of the technique that it ‘allows me to draw in the colour. It is a simplification for me. Instead of drawing the outline and putting the colour inside it – the one modifying the other – I draw straight into the colour’

(quoted in Amis de l’art, October 1951).

The Snail 1953 by Henri Matisse 1869-1954
The Snail 1953 Henri Matisse 1869-1954 Purchased with assistance from the Friends of the Tate Gallery 1962– accessed 25th April 2016

His secretary Mme Lydia Delectorskaya described the making of The Snail (letter to the Tate Gallery, 30 March 1976):

‘The Snail was made in the Hôtel Régina at Nice. H. Matisse had at his disposal sheets of paper painted in gouache by assistants, in all the colours he used for the ‘papiers découpés’. A background of white paper – of the dimensions indicated by H.M. – was put on the wall and the assistant pinned onto it the pieces of gouached paper which H.M. passed to him indicating exactly where they should be placed. When H.M. decided that his composition was finished, it was lightly stuck to the background. The panel was taken down when H.M. needed the wall for a further work. When later on it was sent to Lefebvre-Foinet [in Paris] to be pasted down, before anything was moved, an extremely precise tracing was made to ensure that no changes were made in the composition, not even by so much as a millimetre.’

Matisse’s daughter Mme Duthuit said that her father made many drawings of snails at this time and that the idea for this work came out of these. The concentric pattern formed by the coloured shapes in the centre of the work echoes the spiral pattern found in the snail’s shell. Matisse told André Verdet (pp.64-5),

‘I first of all drew the snail from nature, holding it. I became aware of an unrolling, I found an image in my mind purified of the shell, then I took the scissors’.

He has combined pairs of complementary colours – red/green, orange/blue, yellow/mauve – to create a particularly vibrant effect. He gave the picture the alternative title La Composition Chromatique [Chromatic Composition].’ accessed 25th April 2016.

At first glance I was surprised at how big the piece is and how bright it was. I liked the way it was set out and I could see the snail! The lights in the gallery where quite bright onto it so I couldn’t get a full on picture without light streaks and I wasn’t sure if you were allowed to take pictures so I only took a few and it was all done in secret.

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I liked the use of colour and the way the pieces fitted together. Reading the notes from the letter that was sent to the Tate by his secretary Mme Lydia Delectorskaya  I can see and appreciate how much work has gone into it and how important it was that nothing moved whilst being packed and shown. I understand that myself when I am making things as if one corner is wrong then it all is.

There were lots of paintings on show but I liked these two the best. I found it quite calming and peaceful. An insight into any work space I find interesting and it gives the impression to me of a late afternoon, the room waiting for someone to come in from being out on a walk.

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Studio Interior, Intérieur d’atelier,  Date.1903- 1904- – accessed 25th April 2016.
I bought the postcard of this painting as I liked the colours and the brushwork.

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André Derain, Date 1905. – accessed 25th April 2016.

There was also a collage area set up where you could make your own snail piece if you fancied. It was late when I visited so I didn’t have chance to make anything and a film was showing Matisse at work but I only managed to get one still frame.

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I then went for a cup of tea and visited the shop where I bought all of these cards and I was very happy to get a Georges Braque – The Bird.


 Left- Jenny Holzer, [no title], 1979–82-– accessed 25th April 2016
Right- Guerrilla Girls,Dearest Art Collector, 1986-– accessed 25th April 2016


Left- Sir Eduardo Paolozzi ,Wittgenstein at the Cinema Admires Betty Grable, 1965-– accessed 25th April 2016.
Right- Henri Matisse, André Derain, 1905. – accessed 25th April 2016.


Left- Raoul Hausmann, The Art Critic, 1919–20- 25th April 2016.
Right- Georges Braque, The Bird, 1949- 25th April 2016.

The exhibition finishes on the 2nd of May so you haven’t got long if you want to go and see. It wont be touring again outside of London so you best be quick.


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