Saturday, March 19, 2011

Matisse's Icarus

Henri Matisse was a French painter who became very famous for using extraordinarily bold colors. Later in life, as his health began to fail, Matisse turned to making collages. His last, and most important works were a collection of mixed-media collages. Matisse arranged boldly colored paper cutouts into striking compositions, and added text in his own handwriting to produce a book that has been referred to as "the visual counterpart of jazz music".

Henri Matisse made his famous collages from white paper hand-painted with specially pigmented gouache. (He was sick, so he had an assistant prepare the paper. The pigments Matisse selected were the same pigments he planned to use when printing the book.)

Henri Matisse wrote: "The paper cutouts allow me to draw with color. For me, it is a simplification. Instead of drawing an outline and then filling in with color - with one modifying the other - I draw directly in color... It is not a starting point, it is a completion."

Henri was is also revered as a beloved painter, but his paper cut outs add another interesting chapter to his life.  I show the work of Matisse to my fifth graders and then teach them body proportion.  I focus on the Icarus picture of Matisse's.  Next students cut out shapes out of paper in 3 colors and glue to a background.  Next they cut a figure out of black paper inspired by Icarus.  Last they cut out a few shapes to glue on top. 

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