Updated: Wednesday, 16 April 2014 04:41 | By Agence France-Presse

London opens 'most beautiful' show of Matisse cut-outs

London's Tate Modern will on Thursday open a blockbuster exhibition celebrating the cut-out works of French artist Henri Matisse, which made even Picasso jealous.


London opens 'most beautiful' show of Matisse cut-outs

A gallery assistant poses between "Nu bleu III" (L) and "Nu bleu II" by French artist Henri Matisse at the "Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs" exhibition at the Tate Modern gallery in central London on April 14, 2014 - by Leon Neal

Tate director Nicholas Serota boasts that the much-anticipated show, which brings together more than 100 works from around the world, "will be the most evocative and beautiful show that London has ever seen".

Of the vibrant cut-outs, Serota said: "People sometimes say these could be done by a child, but it's only an old man that has this incredible freedom of mind."

"It's a show for the summer," said Times critic Rachel Campbell-Johnson, one of many British experts enchanted by the explosion of colours in the old power station.

"Tate Modern is translated into a sunlit studio in the south of France," she wrote.

Exhibition curator Nicholas Cullinan took five years to gather the cuttings, which include four of the artist's iconic Blue Nudes and mock-ups of stained glass windows for the Chapel of the Rosary in Venice.

At the end of his life, ravaged by disease and confined to a wheelchair, Matisse became more and more interested in the technique of cutting until scissors finally replaced brushes as his favourite tool.

A film shown in the exhibition shows the artist in his studio, eagerly cutting coloured gouache paper before composing the final works, sometimes huge, with the help of assistants.

"Most artists towards the ends of their life often develop something they call a 'late style'. If you think about people like Titian or Rembrandt or Monet, as painters their work became more gestural. But what Matisse instead did was to develop an entirely different medium," Cullinan told AFP.

Matisse's new direction impressed Picasso, who became jealous of the work when he came to visit his colleague's Nice studio, according to Cullinan.

"The last 15 years of his life, the works get larger, more ambitious, more joyful, more youthful and it gets better and better -- it builds and builds and builds," said the curator.

"And I think he was very aware he was in a race against time to complete these works" before his death in 1954 at the age of 84.

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