Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Matisse at MoMA Makes a Great Trip and Project!

A new exhibit of Henri Mattise's work at  New York City's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is just the thing to inspire young artists. During the last years of his life, Mattise moved away from painting and created a series of stunning cut-outs, which are now on display. These works of art were made using only white paper, a type of paint called gouache, scissors, and pins or glue. The resulting images are similar in style to many of his paintings, but their effect is more dynamic and three-dimensional, thanks to the layered paper. 

Matisse is a particularly accessible artist for young people. He favored bright colors and simple shapes that lend themselves easily to experimentation. Exquisitely detailed pieces, like oil paintings by da Vinci or Rembrandt, are fun to look at but can be intimidating. Even very young children will enjoy looking at Mattise's colorful paintings and cut-outs, however. As you walk through the exhibit, encourage kids to describe the kinds of emotions they think Matisse may have been feeling as he created the different pieces. Ask them to pick a favorite and to explain why they like it best. Challenge them to consider how certain pieces would feel different if he'd used different colors or shapes. Ask whether they like Matisse and why they think others enjoy Matisse so much.

The exhibit began earlier this month and runs through February 8, 2015. Timed tickets are required for non-members of the MoMA. Visit the exhibit's website for detailed information.

To take the fun one step farther, invite children to make their own cut-outs. Young artists may enjoy watching a short video of Matisse working on a cut-out. Then they can try to replicate one of Matisse's pieces or invent their own. Colored construction paper could be used, but for a more authentic experience begin by painting rectangles of white paper in solid colors. Invite kids to experiment with paint application; visible brushstrokes can add exciting texture to the finished piece. Painted papers should be weighted as they dry so that they don't curl. Once they're dry, kids can cut shapes and arrange them on white paper. Some of Matisse's cut-outs are shaped like plants, animals, and people, while others are simply abstract shapes; kids should experiment with both! Once he was happy with his arrangement, Matisse used either sewing pins or dabs of glue to fasten the shapes in place. If you use glue, be sure not to anchor the shapes down too firmly. Part of the fun of cut-outs is seeing the different layers.

Memory of Oceania - Henri Matisse - created 1952-53
For more information on the technique and on Matisse himself, check out the MoMA's wonderful online resources .

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