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.

Painting the Modern Garden – The Royal Academy


Painting the Modern Garden
Monet to Matisse – The Royal Academy

Painting the Modern Garden - Monet to Matisse at The Royal Academy

Painting the Modern Garden – Monet to Matisse at The Royal Academy

After a couple of hours in Tate Britain at the Frank Auerbach exhibition and stomping by foot all the way over to The Royal Academy, I have to admit my feet, legs and eyes were somewhat fried! However, when in London I have to make the most of it.

My heart fell when I walked through the doors – it was packed full and trying to get to the paintings was a bit of a scrum! I’m usually so behind with these things that the initial furore is normally over – as per the Frank Auerbach. The first display was mainly Monet and I made a tactical decision to plough on as I had seen many of his garden paintings at another exhibition (Monet’s Garden – Kunsthaus, Zurich). This turned out to be a smart move, most people seemed only interested in Monet.

I was quite surprised at the number and variety of artists included here – gardening and gardens are obviously a favourite of painters.  Especially the impressionists seemed to see it as another way of painting with plants but not exclusively.

There were paintings by many artists I have researched and discovered through the Practice of Painting Course, although they were more known for other subjects, such as:

  • Pierre Bonnard – researched as part of the still life section. Having said that there were still elements of still life in a few paintings, particularly the tea-table. He always seems to achieve a serene and narrative image.
  • Edvard Munch – Jealously in the Garden showing figures in a narrative, although the main character does have the haunting look reminiscent of The Scream, also shown was Apple Tree in the Garden which is a more mellow theme with some vibrant colour.
  • Paul Cezanne – The Pond at the Jas de Bouffan had a different feel to a lot of his paintings, it seemed more solid somehow.
  • Raoul Dufy – I had been aware of his seaside views through hotel windows and doors, here I particularly liked The Little Palm Tree which was a charming painting full of atmosphere and light. In contrast was his The Abandoned Garden which was quite dark in mood and colour with strong directional marks making up solid objects and the sky.
  • Emil Nolde – I was so excited to discover several of his paintings as I had only seen his work on-line when researching Abstract Expressionists. These were expressive, however, I wouldn’t call them abstract. The colours were as vibrant and striking as I’d previously seen. I don’t think there was one I didn’t like but, in particular I was drawn to Red Flowers, Flower Garden and Peonies and Irises.
  • Wassily Kandinsky – More abstract expressionism with Marnau Garden I & II. These were more as I expected although they were discernible as gardens.

John Singer Sargent featured well, one of my favourite representational artists. Two of my favourites were oil studies in the garden – Garden Study with Lucia and Kate Millet and Garden Study of the Vickers Children.

Some paintings that I really enjoyed were by artists I wasn’t familiar with prior to the exhibition:

  • Joaquin Sorolla – several paintings were by this artist although I particularly liked the serene mood and dappled light of Garden of the Sorolla House.
  • Henri Le Sidaner – the paintings by this artist were quite different in style and had a soft-focus effect that invoked an ethereal mood. The style worked beautifully in the soft light of a snowy garden with the gentle glow of lights from the cottage windows of the painting The Steps, Gerberoy. Interestingly, where this was rendered in pastel, a very similar effect was created in the oil painting The Table in the White Garden, Gerberoy.
  • Santiago Rusinol – this artist’s paintings warranted a room of their own with subdued lighting. Whereas these were very realistic and skilfully draughted images, they were stunning in their light effects. The handling of light and dark made the sunlight out of the shadows glow with warmth, using bright hot colours in contrast to the cooler, shadowy areas took my breath away. Glorieta VII, Aranjuez and Gardens of Montforte are two to note.

There were so many more painters represented here that I would be re-writing the catalogue to mention – I wholeheartedly recommend this exhibition as there really is something for everybody.

Obviously, Monet featured large in the exhibition and it was not my intention to dismiss his importance or brilliance in the beginning of this report. However, I have to say I am, nowadays, drawn to his later, more expressive works such as the Weeping Willow, Nympheas, Japanese Bridge 1918-26 and The Japanese Bridge 1923-25. These brilliant colours, atmosphere and brush marks radiate off of the canvas and captured my attention for some time, they evoked a strong emotional reaction that I am glad was covered by the low lighting! Of course, we had to end with one of the epic Water Lilly paintings taking up an entire wall – Monet deserved to have the last word!