What: Blue Nude II (in the Blue Nudes series)
Artist: Henri Matisse
Medium: Gouache-painted paper cut-outs, stuck to paper mounted on canvas
Where: Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris
Is there a blue more blue than in Blue Nude II? I’ve always run the opposite direction to realism in all my artistic interests (literary, visual, audio), but that doesn’t mean I don’t find truth in non-real works. I’ve always been more interested in colour than detail: I can’t draw or sketch to save my life, but I can colour in with the best of them. Matisse’s work has always been important to me, therefore, because of his play with colour and form, his dedication to using the most blue blue. Pioneering Fauvism, a descendant of Post-Impressionism, Matisse’s devotion and clear reverence for colour is clear in all his work. Paul Gauguin is quoted as saying to Paul Sérusier (both Post-Impressionists): “How do you see these trees? They are yellow. So, put in yellow; this shadow, rather blue, paint it with pure ultramarine; these red leaves? Put in vermillion.” This colour extremism is at the core of Matisse’s work: why use red when you could use vermillion?
The Blue Nudes series (a series of four), were some of the last works Matisse did in his life. Physically debilitated following an operation to treat abdominal cancer, Matisse turned to collage and decoupage, mediums he found easier to physically engage in. These cut-outs represent, then, not only his innovative use of colour and form, but also of medium. And I can’t help but relish the accessibility of these works: we’ve all done cut-outs, collage and decoupage in school. We can all create something as beautiful as Blue Nude II.