Tate Liverpool is currently presenting one of the most iconic works ever created by Henri Matisse – The Snail 1953. Due to the delicate nature of the work, this is your only opportunity to see The Snail outside of London, as it is unlikely that this masterpiece will tour to other venues in our lifetime.
In parallel with the exhibition, ‘An Imagined Museum’, on the ground floor at Tate Liverpool is an exhibition of works by the grand Master, Henri Matisse, ( 31 December 1869 – 3 November 1954). Matisse was a French artist, known for both his use of colour and his fluid and original draughtsmanship. He was a draughtsman, printmaker and sculptor,, but is known primarily as a painter. Matisse, initially labelled a Fauve (wild beast), was mastering the expressive language of colour and drawing. This won him recognition as a leading figure in modern art. As part of this exhibition, Tate Liverpool presents one of the most iconic works ever made – The Snail (1953.) created from gouaches découpées, painted gouache on paper. You can find out more about the making of the Snail in the book, Jazz, (published 1947)
” 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. …”
”Made by cutting and tearing shapes from paper hand painted by his assistants in a range of bright colours, Matisse began experimenting with this cut-out method in the late 1930s, adopting it wholeheartedly by the late 1940s when ill health prevented him from painting…Shown alongside The Snail will be additional Matisse works from Tate’s collection that span the genres of portraiture, landscape and still life, encompassing sculpture, painting and works on paper. Displaying works from 1899 onwards, Matisse in Focus will represent over 50 years of this giant of modern art’s fascinating and impressive career…”
You will also find amongst the works by Matisse, a selection of his ‘Back Sculptures’.
These monumental works are now recognised as a group and were made over a period of twenty years, reduced to their essential elements of form. Although Matisse pursued sculpture from his early life as an independent form of expression, he frequently used it to find a solution to pictorial problems.
”More than half of Matisse’s sculptures were completed between 1900 and 1910. He frequently worked in series, manipulating the form and simplifying it over the years. Among his best-known works belong the series of four Back reliefs (1903–31), the series of five Jeannetteheads (1910–16), and the Large Seated Nude (1925–29). In all, Matisse created 82 sculptural works, each cast in editions of 10 with one exception.”
Matisse observed that relief sculpture was another route towards conveying three-dimensionality and the necessarily flat representation of the body in painting. Relief sculpture allowed him to deal with the mass and form of the body in real space, and at the same time supported him in representing the human form on canvas, therefore standing between the realms of sculpture and painting…Matisse never saw The Backs (I-IV), his largest and among his most significant sculptures, cast in bronze. They were cast by his heirs after his death.
Matisse like Picasso and André Derain, was influenced by the sophisticated and beautiful forms of African Tribal art. The simplicity and boldness of these works inspired him in many of his sculptures and paintings, ”often leaving them unfinished or forgotten about, as if a child had been distracted by another task.” Do go and see this. Due to the delicate nature of the work, this is your only opportunity to see The Snail outside of London, as this masterpiece will not tour to other venues in our lifetime. The Snail ties together the overall theme of works in progress, of the importance of the process, the simplicity of endings of what can be a complex beginning. Come along and see this masterpiece for yourself.
The overall exhibition combined with ‘An Imagined Museum’, highlights the transmutation of artworks, their process and language. High and low art forms, mass produced art, the idea of the readymade, classification, order and disorder, documentation, interactive and participatory engagement with art, time and space, the challenging of parameters, man made materials, dream and disillusionment, enigmas and new spacial realities are just a few systems of understanding the works on display.
”This exhibition reminds us that art allows us to imagine and hold on to untranslatable enigmas. These works demonstrate how, rather than existing in isolation, art can help formulate
and express ways of thinking that might otherwise remain indefinable.”
A wonderful chance to go and see this unique collection of works by Matisse at Tate Liverpool. Not to be missed.
Words: Alice Lenkiewicz Photo: P C Robinson © Artlyst 2015
Works to Know by Heart: Matisse in Focus Tate Liverpool 20 November 2015 – 2 May 2016