The Snail by Henri Matisse


The Snail


Henri Matisse

Ref SPV9356
Type Print
Image Size 70 x 100 cm (28" x 40")
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After 1948 Matisse was prevented from painting by ill health but, although confined to bed, he produced a number of works known as gouaches découpées. These were made by cutting or tearing shapes from paper which had been painted with gouache. The shapes were placed and pasted down by an assistant working under Matisse's instruction. 'The Snail' was created from summer 1952 to early 1953, it appears very abstract but like all Matisse's work it is rooted in his responses to the world about him. It is characteristic of Matisse that for 'The Snail' he should take his point of departure from an everyday creature associated with relaxed calm, and possessing in its shell a naturally occurring geometric form of considerable beauty. In 'The Snail' the process of purification has resulted in an open structure of coloured fragments arranged in such a way as to suggest that they are floating in space in slowly spiraling movement within the enclosing frame of orange. It is clear that the coloured shapes themselves must be simply vehicles for the colour, which Matisse has selected and organised in such a way as to create a decorative effect of great intensity. The scheme consists of the three primaries, red, yellow and blue, and their three secondaries green, mauve and orange, with some variations of green and mauve. The non-colours black and white provide, respectively, contrast - a place for the eye to rest - and the dimension of space. Matisse deliberately places together complementary colours, red and green, blue and orange, yellow and mauve; complementary colours 'complete' each other and so look stronger and more vibrant when placed together.