Research Point: Matisse’s Blue Nudes


Research Point: Matisse’s Blue Nudes

Look at Matisse’s blue nudes and see what you can learn from them.  What makes them so powerful? Find other artists who work in this way and compare them to Matisse and to what you are doing.

vervediary: “Nu bleu I, Nu bleu II, Nu bleu III, Nu bleu IV Henri Matisse 1954 ”:

Nu bleu I, Nu bleu II, Nu bleu III, Nu bleu IV Henri Matisse 1952

These four blue nudes by Matisse appear the same at first glance yet they are all subtly different. The pose is the same but Matisse has altered shapes and angles applied to the cut-outs. This has had the effect of changing the weight-bearing and proportions of the figure and, particularly in number 3, the attitude of the figure. Here she appears to be more confident and seductive, whereas the others have more of a reticent or shy appearance. This is all the more impressive when you just see the simple shapes and that their arrangements have the power to convey that with no detail or staging to lead you into a narrative. Even the titles are simplistic and give no further clues.

Paul Butler : paul butler | multi-disciplinary canadian artist:

by Paul Butler



As a direct comparison, I found some work by a Canadian artist called Paul Butler who uses collage in his artwork. I refer mainly to his “Within Us” series, where he uses cut-outs of figures combined with photographic scenes which shows their fleeting presence in that environment. Where Matisse mainly uses the positive shape, Paul Butler has used the negative with strong effect. As with Matisse these are simple yet powerful.





This next artist has used cut-outs in a beautifully, unexpected way in an installation piece called Carbon Obscura at Motsalvat. In a nutshell, here Lloyd Godman uses cut-outs or piercings through which he projects light, this gives a double effect from the light coming through the cut design itself and the light cast down on to the floor and changes with the angle and whether natural or artificial light is used. This, although appears fairy simple in theory was complex and time-consuming to create. It shows where a basic idea can lead. Here is the link to the artist’s website for the full explanation:

Shepard Fairey - collage, colour, figure.:

by Shepard Fairey – Collage

This is a powerful image and is a collage although not simple in any way. It has a message and is complex in design. As unfortunately, I have not seen this in real life, I have to imagine how it was made. Some of the background designs look like wall paper yet some have a printed appearance – as if lace was used to mask the pattern.  Again it shows how simple cut-outs can be pushed and manipulated to make a sophisticated image – although, compared to Matisse’s simplicity, I have to say that they are no less sophisticated because of that simplicity.

Relating these and others I have seen (see Pinterest board: ) to my tentative beginnings in monoprinting, I can see how using masks, cut-outs and collage can relate and inform more complex images. It is interesting to see, however, that paring back in order to make a successful mask for printing can concentrate and focus the mind’s eye on a possible outcome. I am also interested in exploring different supports and papers on which to print, I am keen to use found papers, such as magazines, newspaper, wrapping papers etc and have been inspired by my quick research. I will do more.



All images found via Pinterest and credit given where known – reproduction is purely for editorial reasons and non-commercial.

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