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Henri Matisse Shamrock Shapes

Henri Matisse Shamrock Shapes
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Students will learn about positive and negative shapes as they create shamrock paper shapes in the style of artist Henri Matisse.

By Anitra Redlefsen [Anitra is a teaching artist from Medina, OH.]

One of my favorite artists is Matisse, who became famous later in his life for his paper cut out paintings.

One way to achieve harmony in a composition is to repeat positive and negative spaces which vary in size, color, texture or value. Start by first cutting out a positive shape; use the leftover paper around the positive shape as a second by cutting out around it again. Cut a third shape out of the first positive shape, thus altering the it. And so on and so on. Keep using the paper you have to create new shapes which are suggested by shapes already cut out.

Confused? Try this St. Patrick’s Day project!

What You Need:

  • Scissors
  • Sample drawing of a shamrock (Click here for sample)
  • 3 different values of green paper, preferably card stock
  • Glue
  • For Mobile: yarn/ribbon/ string and pipe cleaners
  • Henri Matisse Biography (see below)

What You Do:

  1. Cut out one shamrock, saving the leftover paper. (See printable page for a sample shamrock.)
  2. Follow the outline of the leftover paper, cutting a second, new shamrock.
  3. Repeat this process, using a different size shamrock.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3.
  5. Respond to the scraps of paper that you have left over by cutting some new, non-shamrock shapes.
  6. Assemble shapes onto a surface (another piece of card stock, leftover mat board, etc.) in an interesting composition; secure in place with glue.
  7. Display and enjoy your paper cut out collage!

For the Mobile

  1. Punch a hole at the top of each of your pieces and string them in interesting ways to a piece of ribbon, yarn or string.
  2. If you have some pipe cleaners, string a shape or two onto the pipe cleaner and twist the pipe cleaner to the main string/ribbon/yarn.
  3. Your mobile will look festive and move in fun and surprising ways with varying air currents!

Matisse Shamrocks Matisse Shamrocks


About Henri Matisse

By Anitra Redlefsen

Henri Matisse was born December 31, 1869 in northern France. As a young man, he went to Paris to study law, graduated, and in 1889 returned home to work as a clerk in a law office. It was at this time that he had an acute attack of appendicitis, requiring surgery and a long convalescence. His mother gave him a paint box, and at the age of 21, Matisse discovered painting. He returned to work, and every morning before work, he attended drawing classes; at lunch time he would paint for an hour or so, and then return to work. After work he would paint till night fell. It was his life.

In 1891 set off for Paris. Despite that one of his first teachers told Matisse that he would never learn to draw, he worked hard and was sponsored as a candidate for the school for fine arts. He failed the entrance exam and enrolled instead in an evening school. He later joined the studio of symbolist/Mannerism painter Gustove Moreau, who encouraged the young Matisse “to look inward.” Matisse began his journey of studies which ultimately lead him to merge his love of the work of the old masters, his weakness for ornament, and his love of line, shape and color.

Matisse felt that his greatest influence had been the work of the artist Cezanne (1839 – 1906, French).

In the 1950‘s, Matisse began creating paintings using paint and paper cut outs. He produced many paintings and designs using this technique.

In his last years, as he aged and fell ill, Matisse continued to paint, this time on the walls of his room, using a piece of charcoal attached to the end of a bamboo pole. He painted until his death in 1954.

Matisse had strong feelings about only one thing, the act of painting. This to him was an experience so profoundly joyous that he wanted to transmit it to the beholder in all its freshness and immediacy. The purpose of this pictures, he always asserted, was to give pleasure.

For Matisse, painting was the rhythmic arrangement of line and color on a flat plane. He had created the technique of striking contrasts, unmixed hues, flat planes of color (similar to Gauguin, 1848 – 1903, French) and expressive brush strokes (similar to Van Gogh, 1853 – 1890, Dutch). Light was expressed, not in the method of the Impressionists, but with a harmony of intensely covered surfaces.

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