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Matisse-Inspired Collage

When Matisse was elderly and too weak to stand at his easel, he began making collages with cut paper, which he called “drawing with scissors”.

Henri Matisse, a French artist (1869-1953) known for his originality and strong use of color, was one of the most important artists of the 20th century and a leader in the modern art movement. An art critic once labeled Matisse and his peers “Fauves” (French for “wild beasts”) after viewing an exhibit of their work – the name “stuck” and this became the movement known as “Fauvism”. Shown here is Matisse’s collage, “The Sorrow of the King”.

Here’s some important vocabulary:
Geometric shapes
– shapes that are commonly found in geometry, such as squares, triangles and rectangles

Organic shapes – shapes that are commonly found in nature, usually with curved, irregular lines
Positive shape – the shape itself
Negative shape – the area around a shape or in between shapes, where you can see the background behind a shape
Repeating shapes – the same shape, repeated multiple times, often in a grouping or making a path across the paper
Stylized – an image which is simplified to the point of being abstract, but still carries a resemblance of it’s original form

1. No pencils allowed! “Draw” with your scissors only!!
2. Cut paper shapes in a variety of colors and sizes and arrange in a pleasing design on white or black background paper. Include geometric, organic, positive, and negative shapes and at least one repeating shape. (I put a list of these shapes on the board so students can tell if they’ve got them all!) Have some shapes overlap each other. Your collage can represent something or just be a totally abstract design. (If you choose to use representational shapes in your design, make them stylized rather than realistic.)
3. Glue your design to the background paper, the largest shapes first, then the smaller ones on top.

Helpful tips: Whenever gluing, always apply the glue to the smaller piece of paper and then stick it onto the larger paper. I recommend using “YES! Paste” and a 1″ foam brush instead of a glue stick. Check out my “YES! Paste” review here.

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  1. What grade level would you recommend for this Matisse inspired lesson? I tried 2nd grade and had some difficulties.