Painting with Scissors: Matisse and the Papiers Coupes

"You see as I am obliged to remain often in bed because of the state of my health, I have made a little garden all around me where I can walk... There are leaves, fruits, a bird." -- Henry Matisse, writing about his paper cutouts

In 1941, Henri Matisse was diagnosed with cancer and underwent a risky surgery. He wrote letters to his family that were meant to be opened in the event of his death. Matisse was preparing to "shuffle off this mortal coil." 

What followed was an artistic rebirth and what Matisse himself referred to as his "second life." While convalescing from surgery and his illness, he was forced to create while often confined to his bed. He began making the pieces that would mark the third great act of his professional life -- the paper cutouts. The resulting pieces, using colored paper and papers that Matisse had custom tinted with gouache, transcend the limitations of drawing and painting to become something completely new.    

Matisse continued to work for an additional fourteen years, even creating a limited edition book of collected paper cutouts entitled Jazz. He is a testament to all creatives and especially to those of us who are seeking our second life, our second chance to do something...wonderful.

Join Fresh City Life and paper expert Heather McKenzie for Art for the Masses: Henri Matisse and the Papiers Coupes (paper cutouts) on Saturday, September 8, 1:30-4:30 p.m. You’ll learn more about Henri Matisse and create your own papier coupe suitable for framing in a standard-sized frame (easy to find and easy on the wallet). Fee for this workshop is $20; all materials and equipment included.

Check out the full Fresh City Life calendar of events here.

Written by Chris on August 30, 2012


Lisa Ann on August 30, 2012


This sounds like a delightful event - great for jumpstarting your creativity for some winter projects.

Ben Sander on August 30, 2012


This sounds like a wonderful event. I wish I could attend.

Bonnie Meyer on April 14, 2014


The paper cut outs grace the walls of my office and my residence. Especially delightful is the fact that Matisse worked with so many different hues while working on the cut outs. Many that I have never had the opportunity to view first hand (perhaps they are in private collections) are among my favorites because surprisingly they are done in pastels, which allows for a surprising but very delightful change of pace and visual production.

Anonymous on September 8, 2014


I own that painting with the little guitar, drum and what appears to be a harp. What do you think it is worth? Any input would be appreciated.

Leave a comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.