Art & Craft, Books

Henri Matisse Inspired Activities for Kids

Our Matisse inspired space

My first encounter with Henri Matisse’s art was a visit to the Rosary Chapel located in the South of France. I was 14 then on a school trip to Europe for an art history tour. The facade of the chapel was white and plain looking; a stark contrast to the majestic churches filled with Gothic and Renaissance frescos, which I was used to seeing earlier during the trip. It was a welcome change for me I recalled. 

I remembered sitting inside the chapel and in front of me just behind the altar was a mural of a man drawn in black outlined. I thought to myself “Hey! I think I can do that too!” It was Matisse’s masterpiece of Saint Dominic. What caught my attention was the bold coloured stained glass which stood out against the white interiors. The chapel was designed by Henri Matisse in his final years.

Using resources from the Singapore library, I borrowed two books “Henri’s Scissors” by Jeanette Winter and “How the Snail Found Its Colours: The Art of Matisse ” by Jeong-Yi Kee. These books opened the world of Matisse’s cutouts to younger GEM.

Book I: Henri’s Scissors

The story briefly details the life of Matisse from how a young boy who enjoyed the arts became a lawyer but eventually followed his passion to become an artist.

Matisse’s art in his later years were putting together coloured paper cut outs as he was no longer able to hold a paintbrush due to his ailments. Despite his inability to paint, he didn’t give up but channeled his passion of art to another artform. He formed collages using his colourful cut outs on walls. I am a fan of his collages!   

I planned for younger GEM to create her own coloured paper and make cutouts to decorate the wall and a recycled milk bottle to be used as a vase. 

Materials & Tools:

  • Drawing paper
  • Paints
  • Brushes
  • Scissors
  • Recycled milk bottle
  • Double sided tape

Our Process:

  1. Just like how Henri’s assistants painted the paper for him to cut, younger GEM painted the drawing papers with the colours she chose.
  2. I traced the some of the designs found in the book for us to cut. Both the “birds” were cut by younger GEM while the rest were too challenging for her.
  3. Decorate the milk bottle with the cut outs using double sided tape. A little fine motor skill practise from peeling the tape!
  4. Create a little Matisse inspired space! See image at the beginning of the post!
Painting papers for the cutouts

Practising her cutting skills.

Decorating her vase with cutouts.

Book II: How the Snail Found Its Colours

This is a story of a colourless snail embarking on a journey to find its own colours and along the way met a number of artworks by Matisse. Finally, the snail found its own colours from Matisse; from a colourless sad snail to a colourful fabulous one!    

From this story, younger GEM saw some of Matisse’s art such as “Dance (II)” and “Music”. The highlight was “The Snail”, which we will attempt to replicate. 

Materials & Tools:

  • Picture of “The Snail” by Matisse  
  • Square drawing paper
  • Crepe paper: black, orange, dark blue, dark and light green, yellow, red and pink
  • Scissors
  • Spray bottle with water
  • Tray

Our Process:

  1. I cut out the shapes similar to the original piece using crepe paper.
  2. Display the cut outs and place square drawing paper on tray.
  3. Younger GEM to place them on a blank piece of drawing paper according to the original artwork.
  4. Spray water over the entire piece of artwork and let the crepe paper colours “bleed”.
  5. Wait for a while and remove the crepe papers gently.
  6. Let dry.

The end product looked similar to a water colour painting and it was perfect as a birthday card for grandma! 

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