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Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Painting of the Month (47) July 2014: Matisse

Henri Matisse, The Snail, 1953
Henri Matisse, The Snail, 1953, The Tate Gallery , London
Henri Matisse (1869-1954) had a long and successful career as a painter but by the 1940s ill-health had meant a change in the way he worked. He was famous for being a 'colourist' and this picture certainly maintains that tradition, utilising a complex and clever scheme of coloured pieces of cut-out paper to depict the shell of a snail (or is it? read on!) and managing to create an enormous sense of movement.
This is one of his last creations, which he directed his students to compile. He firstly drew the outline, probably using a long pole from his wheel-chair or bed and then told the students exactly where to place the painted paper. This was then traced and sent off to be pasted in place to the exact millimetre.
Matisse himself did not call this work The Snail; he called it La Composition Chromatique. However, it is universally known as The Snail but there may be a clue that, although Matisse was well into his eighties when this was created he had not lost his sense of humour. Take a close look at the top-left lilac-coloured piece of paper. Can you see a very tiny outline of a small creature crawling along the top? That's the snail!
This image has become an iconic reminder of one of the 20th century's greatest artists. I have shown some more of his glorious output below.
I will be in France for a long weekend so replies to comments will be a bit later than usual!


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Bazza - you mean you watched Le Tour de France in Essex and now you're chasing the Peloton along the rest of the Stages?! Have fun and a good break - hope the weather is playing fair ..

I hope to see the Matisse at the Tate - and learn - the little snail is a great touch isn't it ..

I was in London yesterday for the Primary Colours exhibition at the National Gallery - brilliant it was and I'm so pleased I went ...

Cheers and thanks for sharing some of Mattisse's other work ... along with your notes .. Hilary

John said...

Hi Bazza!
Glad you pointed the 'snail' out, I would have missed it otherwise!

klahanie said...

Hey Bazza!

I was at a snail's pace getting over here. Of course, the wait for my comment in always worth it, I state convincingly.

He was a colourist, for sure. I cannot see the paintings when I go to comment. How's my memory? Sorry, where am I?

I have informed the French authorities of your visit. Have fun and on your bike, Bazza!


loverofwords said...

Love the whimsy of the snail. Oh, you are in Paris--how sad. There is something about the "idea" of Paris that helps those of us who are not there. We were in Paris years ago when the Tour was ending and had no idea why people were lining up four deep along the boulevard. We were able to see the very end. Exciting!
Hope the rain stays away.

Sherry Ellis said...

I would have never seen the snail if you hadn't pointed it out. I was trying to figure out how the squares could resemble a snail shell.

All Consuming said...

Clever stuff and wonderful colours too. Enjoy your ooh la la time bazza :D

bazza said...

Hilary: Funnily enough I was in the north of France near where the Tour had been. And the weather was quite kind to us but with a big crowd of ten Brits and ten French we were bound to have fun anyway! They didn't know what I meant by 'Bastille Day'; they call it 'La Fête nationale' formally or 'Le quatorze juillet' generally.

bazza said...

John: Most people miss the real snail but are usually charmed when they discover it!

bazza said...

Gary: The French authorities didn't discover me; I was sheltered by the Resistance and plied with with alcohol (but declined the snails!).

bazza said...

Natasha: I would love to see the end of the Tour in Paris but we were actually further north on this occasion but still very oh-la-la!

bazza said...

Sherry: Well I think there is some artistic license going on there but I enjoyed this picture even before I was introduced to the snail.
Sometimes an artist can make us see things in a new way otherwise one might just as well use a camera ;-)

bazza said...

AC: I ooh-la-la'd so much that my head hurts. A week of detox lies ahead!

Petra Pavlátková said...

Hi Bazza, as many others here I was also trying to figure out where the shape of the snail hides among the pieces of paper and had to smile when you pointed its position out. It's utterly understandable, why the picture is known as "The snail" rather than "La Composition Chromatique"! :)

bazza said...

Hi Petra. Thanks for visiting. Are you a professional photographer; your images are stunning!
I am happy that my revelation made you smile. Please visit again!

Petra Pavlátková said...

Bazza, I'll visit again for sure.

Thank you for your appreciative comment on my photographs. I'm not a professional photographer, far from that, I just try to walk and improve along that photography path. :)