Thursday, October 15, 2009

Henri Matisse: Drawing with Scissors

First Grade Art Lesson

Adapted with permission for use at George Kelly Elementary by Lynne Millar from a lesson for Duniway Elementary by Michelle Smit

Principle: Color and Shape

Concept: Strong visual art can be created using cut paper and abstracted shapes to create rhythm, movement, balance and variety.

Objective: Students will create a paper cut-out collage (a drawing with scissors) that uses complimentary colors, shows repetition, and design through color, shape, and size.


*One 11x17-inch piece of colored construction paper per student

(have a variety of colors available)

*Construction paper scraps and rectangular scraps in strong, bold colors.


*Glue Sticks

*Color Wheel

Pre-Class Prep: None


*Set out a variety of 11x17-inch colored construction paper

*Have students choose one piece of colored construction paper

*Place piles of paper scraps and rectangular scraps of various sizes on each table

*Have glue sticks ready for distribution, but do not do so until each child has worked with the paper scraps.

Art Appreciation Lesson:

Summarize for the kids information about the interesting life of Henri Matisse – see end of the lesson for biographical information. Familiarize yourself with this beforehand so you can use your own words. Another idea is to read the kids a story about Henri Matisse: a great one is the biography of Matisse in the Smart About Art series (check with Lynne Millar if you would like to borrow this book). This is a great way, if time permits, to give the kids a vivid glimpse into Matisse’s life. Or – perhaps see if your teacher would like reading this book to the class in the week before the lesson.

Power Point Slide Presentation:

1T This is a photograph of Matisse.

2. Look at this painting Matisse made of his wife! Have you ever seen anyone wearing such an exciting hat? What color did Matisse paint her skin? Her neck?

When Matisse got older, he got really sick and had to stay in his bed. So he started making collages – pictures with paper and scissors – to make himself happy. He painted his own paper and drew shapes on the ceiling from his bed with a piece of charcoal connected to a long stick. He would also cut out the shapes and stick them to the wall.

3. This one is called The Sea. Do you see how the shapes in the front stand out? It’s because he made them all white, so they pop forward. How does this picture make you feel?

4. Here’s another cut out. It’s very simple, but very harmonious. Do you like it?

5. This one started out as a cut-out, but then Matisse turned it into stained glass window, for the wall of a church in France. Do you see how it’s a design about Christmas? Look how he uses opposite colors that make each other really pop out.


Have the students cut out a large rectangle or use a rectangular scrap in a contrasting color and have them glue it down to the middle of their paper. Parents, please allow students to do this themselves. It’s better if it’s not a perfect rectangle. This will divide their background into three rectangular shapes creating a more interesting background. The colored stripe does not have to be exactly in the middle. The rectangle can be fat or thin. Their paper can be vertical or horizontal. They can use whatever color they want for the stripe, but dark colors seem to look the best. Then have the students use the scissors to cut out simple shapes with strong, bold colored construction paper found. Cut out a variety of sizes from small to large. Suggest pasting down a small square or rectangle of another color behind their cutouts to create more depth. Remind them to use complimentary colors whenever possible. Use curvilinear shapes in addition to straight ones.

Once the students have enough shapes to fill up their 11x17-inch paper, have the students arrange their shapes on the paper BEFORE passing out the glue.

Have the students glue their shapes to their paper.

Have them title their art and write this on a label and stick to the back of the paper.


Complimentary colors - colors that are opposite each other on the color wheel

Abstract Art – Creating art that is not a realistic image, but an imaginative, creative, expressive way to show the essence of something. (Kid Words: Weird, twisted, crazy, strange)

CurvilinearA line that curves

Background Information: Henri Matisse - 1869-1954

Henri Matisse was born as the son of a grain merchant in the Picardy region of northern France. He studied law and worked as a law clerk. When Henri Matisse was 21 years old he became seriously ill. During the phase of convalescence Matisse started painting and discovered his love for art, which should become his life-long passion.

Two years later, in 1892, he gave up his career as a lawyer. He attended art classes at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris and dabbled in different styles. He then was influenced by the impressionist and post-impressionist painters Pisarro, Cezanne, van Gogh, Gauguin and Paul Signac and by the paintings of W. Turner.

Around the year 1905 he finally found his own style characterized by daring, bright colors executed in a broad brush stroke.

The Master of Colors

After an exhibition of their works in 1905 at the Salon d'Automne the group around Matisse and Andre Derain was ironically and pejoratively dubbed Les Fauves, which literally means The Wild Beasts.

From 1905 to 1906 Matisse painted one of his best paintings, The Joy of Life. It is considered to be one of the most important works of Twenty Century art and was bought by the famous art collector Dr. Albert C. Barnes. This painting and the whole Barnes collection was veiled from the public for 72 years. Finally the collection of the Barnes Foundation was opened to the art world again in 1993 and can be visited outside Philadelphia.

The American writer Gertrude Stein and her brother Leo were early collectors and supporters of Matisse paintings. Another admirer became Pablo Picasso with whom he exchanged paintings in 1907.

After World War I, Matisse had gained a high reputation and was an internationally recognized artist. In 1917 he left Paris and settled in Nice in the South of France where he remained until the end of his life. In 1925 he received the French Legion of Honor award.

The Late Years

In 1941 Matisse had an abdominal cancer surgery which had a devastating effect on his health and ability to paint. He was unable to stand upright in front of an easel. The artist therefore turned to another form of artistic expression. He created paper cut-outs in the same vivid, strong colors and daring compositions known from his paintings. He had an assistant and could work lying in bed or sitting comfortably in an arm-chair.

Henri Matisse died on November 3, 1954 in Nice as an internationally well known and highly reputable artist. He had continued creating paper cutout works until the day of his death. Pablo Picasso once said about the artist: "All things considered, there is only Matisse".

"I have always tried to hide my efforts and wished my works to have the light joyousness of springtime, which never lets anyone suspect the labors it has cost me."

"In modern art, it is undoubtedly to Cezanne that I owe the most."

"A colorist makes his presence known even in a single charcoal drawing."

"The essential thing is to spring forth, to express the bolt of lightning one senses upon contact with a thing. The function of the artist is not to translate an observation but to express the shock of the object on his nature; the shock, with the original reaction."

Article by Dieter Wanczura, from

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