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  • Writer's picturedandelion

Dandelion Art – Week 10

Once a week we take a painting, or piece of sculpture, that interests us, tell you a bit about it and hope it sparks something with you and your families. We would love to hear your recommendations.


Over the next month, we have decided as a team to pick some of the pieces of art that we are most excited about seeing again when museums and galleries reopen their doors on 17th May. We are kicking off our countdown with one of Anya's all-time favourite artists, Henri Matisse, and more particularly one of his famous cut-outs, The Snail.

The Snail (L'escargot) by Henri Matisse

The Tate Modern, 1953

Henri Matisse (1869 – 1954) was a French artist, known for his use of colour. He was a draughtsman, printmaker, and sculptor, but is known primarily as a painter.

Towards the end of his career, in his 70s, Matisse produced a huge collection of paper cut-outs (gouaches découpées). These were made by cutting or tearing shapes from paper which had been painted with gouache. The coloured shapes were then placed and pasted down by an assistant working under Matisse's instruction. Matisse invented this technique because it allowed him to continue to make a large number of art works despite his deteriorating health and debilitating arthritis. In creating individual 'objects' for each painting, Matisse could change the arrangements as necessary without having to redraw anything. But these works were also a natural progression from his previous work which had been moving towards greater abstraction for a number of years.

The Snail (L'escargot) is a famous example of this. This collage was created from the summer of 1952 to 1953 and is of very large dimensions (just under 3-metres square). It consists of coloured shapes (gouache on paper) arranged into a spiral pattern. According to his daughter, Matisse drew many drawings of snails at this time and the idea for this work came from them. Using the colored paper he interpreted his drawing of a snail – the concentric pattern formed by the coloured shapes in the centre of the work echoing the the spiral pattern found in the snail's shell. He has combined pairs of complimentary colours (red/green, orange/blue and yellow/mauve) to create a particularly vibrant image. Indeed he had an alternative title for this picture, La Composition Chromatique ('Chormatic Composition').

To see The Snail for yourself from 17th May, head to Room 2 in the Tate Modern. Entry is free.

Anya Waddington 13 April 2021


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