Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs (Kids)

*Composition, Black and Red (Composition, noir et rouge)*

Henri Matisse. Composition, Black and Red (Composition, noir et rouge). 1947

Henri Matisse (French, 1869–1954). Composition, Black and Red (Composition, noir et rouge). 1947. Gouache on paper, cut and pasted. 16 × 20 3/4″ (40.6 × 52.7 cm). Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA. Gift of Professor and Mrs. John McAndrew. © 2014 Succession H. Matisse/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

NARRATOR: When Matisse was making his cut-outs, he hardly ever threw anything away. He would cut out a shape, but often he would save the rest of the piece of paper and use it, too. You can see a really good example here. On the left side, the green leafy shape in the corner is the shape he cut out. That’s called the positive image.


NARRATOR: Just above it, is what’s left of the paper after he cut out the shape—you can see it has a leaf-shaped hole in the middle. The empty space is the negative image.

Dong! (related sound, but lower-pitched)

NARRATOR: They’re like puzzle pieces that fit together. Most of us would probably toss our leftover pieces in the trash, but Matisse thought that negative shapes were just as interesting as positive ones. Sometimes, like here, he used them in the same picture. But other times he’d use them in different artworks.

As you go through the galleries today, see how many negative and positive shapes you can find!

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