David Sinclair, exhibitions curator at The Civic in Barnsley, writes for Northern Soul about the venue’s stunning Matisse exhibition. 

Last summer’s exhibition of Matisse’s cut-outs broke visitor records at Tate Modern in London, becoming one of its most popular shows ever. Now prints of some of the large cut-outs created by the artist during the last four years of his life have come to The Civic in Barnsley.

Henri Matisse Souvenir d'OceanieThe 35 prints, from a Hayward Touring Exhibition, include many of Matisse’s iconic images such as The Snail and the Blue Nudes. To date, tens of thousands of people have seen the touring exhibition and we are expecting exceptional visitor figures as the prints exert their usual power of attraction. They are iconic images; they have been indoctrinated into our existence.

So, what we do know about Henri Matisse? Aged 18, he began studying law. But after a bout of appendicitis, during which his mother gave him paints and an easel to pass the time, he began drawing and left to study art in Paris in 1890.

At first strongly influenced by the Impressionists he soon created his own style. In 1905, he and his colleagues were branded the Fauves – wild beasts – for their unconventional use of colour.

Mastisse Nu aux OrangesBy the time he was in his 70s, Matisse was confined to a wheelchair. Nevertheless, he devised a new technique to cut shapes from sheets of specially-painted paper, pouring out a torrent of designs even as his health declined for stained glass windows, church vestments and ceramic tile murals. For smaller pieces of work his assistants would paint the paper for him, which he would then cut out and arrange. Meanwhile, for larger works he would direct his assistants to pin shapes on the wall, making numerous adjustments until they were right.

Matisse once declared that he wanted his art to be “a soothing, calming influence on the mind, something like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue” – but the prints should also be a great cure for the Springtime blues.

By David Sinclair, Exhibitions Curator at The Civic


What: Drawing with Scissors; Late works 1950-1954 

Where: The Civic, Barnsley

When: until March 14, 2015

More info: www.barnsleycivic.co.uk or @barnsleycivic


The Art of Stencil Printing
Come and join this artist-led workshop aimed at practising artists and printmaking enthusiasts interested in an opportunity to explore this versatile printmaking process and create one-off prints inspired by the Matisse exhibition. Places are limited, booking essential, £20. Saturday, March 14, 2015 from 10am- 4pm. Click here.