Image Credit: www.tate.org.uk
Venue: The York Picturehouse ★★★★☆
As part of a new ‘Exhibition on Screen’ series, York Picturehouse recently screened ‘Matisse: From Tate Modern and MoMA’. The documentary centres on the recent Tate exhibition of Henri Matisse’s cut-outs, offering an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the exhibition, underpinned by a biographical study of the artist’s life. The exhibition of 120 cut-outs at the Tate was a resounding success, attracting over half a million visitors. Rather unsurprising, considering the brilliance of these works. Produced by Matisse in the 1940s, they mark the final chapter in his career, and are often celebrated for their simplicity, originality and expressive use of colour and shape.
However, what most people are not aware of – and what this documentary shed light on – is the conditions under which they were produced. After undergoing radical colon surgery in 1941, Matisse was forced into a wheelchair at the age of 71, and was more or less bed-bound for the last 13 years of his life… But despite this, he began to work with even more energy, and, with the help of his assistant, Lydia Delektorskaya, started experimenting with coloured paper and pins, developing a new way of working, which he called ‘painting with scissors’.
The documentary captured this beautifully through its inclusion of authentic footage of Matisse working in his studio – a highlight of the film for me. Watching him hack into coloured paper with an unapologetically large pair of scissors and an incredible sense of assurance was fascinating. These videos, alongside photos of his studio and voiceover relaying direct quotes from Matisse, captured his experimental and expressive nature perfectly, really bringing his ‘carvings into colour’ to life.