Matisse: Drawing with Scissors Late Works 1950-1954

Currently on show until 16th April at The Gateway Gallery, The Hat Factory, 65-67 Bute Street, Luton LU1 2EY 9.00 to 18.00 Free Entry.

Helen Porteous, attended the Private View ....

For those who have not heard of this venue (I must admit I was one) The Hat Factory is a combined arts venue in the centre of Luton. It opened in 2003 and since then has been the area’s main provider of contemporary theatre, dance and music. It contains a cafe and bar, and stages films, theatre, comedy and arts workshops. It also stages exhibitions.

Matisse: Drawing with Scissors, a Hayward Touring exhibition from the Southbank Centre, features 35 lithographic prints of the famous cut-outs, produced in the last four years of his life, when the artist was confined to his bedroom.  It includes many of his iconic images, such as The Snail and the Blue Nudes. It opened at The Gateway Gallery at The Hat Factory on 14 March.


The Acanthi (1953)

I visited this exhibition on the opening evening and was greatly impressed by both the venue and the exhibition. The Hat factory in central Luton is only a short walk from the station, and with parking very close by.  However for those, like me, who are directionally challenged, especially in one way systems, a good map or a sat nav may be needed if travelling by car.

“Une seconde vie”, a second life, was what Matisse called the last fourteen years of his life. Following an operation he found renewed and unexpected energies . Vast in scale (though not always in size), lush and rigorous in colour, his cutouts are among the most admired and influential works of Matisse's entire career.  The lithographs exhibited though small in scale still show in full the unbounded energy and creativity of this great artist.  Matisse generally cut the shapes out freehand, using a small pair of scissors and saving both the item cut out and remaining scraps of paper.


After having cut the shapes, the second part of the creative process entailed pinning the cut pieces of paper to the walls of his studio, which created a paradisical, garden-like world of organic shapes that resembled algae, leaves, seaweed, and coral, shapes recalling patterns that appeared in many of Matisse's earliest works, which floated atop brilliantly coloured grounds. When the desired balance of form and colour was achieved, the finished composition was glued to some type of support such as paper, canvas, or board.

La Gerbe

La Gerbe (1953)

The cut out was not a renunciation of painting and sculpture: he called it “painting with scissors”.
The originality of shape and the vibrancy of colour both suggest youth and modernity. The fact that Matisse was in his eighties when producing these works speaks well of the power of creativity in keeping the mind young.


Matisse had used the Linel brand of gouache paint because of its brilliance and depth of pigment. This was used directly painted on the large sheets of paper used for the big cutouts, and also used when printing the book Jazz from which many of the prints at the exhibition are taken.  Other prints were taken from designs for stained glass windows. The purity of the colour  and the simplicity of the shapes must have translated beautifully into this medium.

I would thoroughly recommend a trip to this fascinating venue, and this most exciting exhibition.