Magazine article Arts & Activities

Henri Matisse's "Beasts of the Sea"

Magazine article Arts & Activities

Henri Matisse's "Beasts of the Sea"

Article excerpt

Henri Matisse (1869-1954) was a very prolific Impressionist/Post-Impressionist artist whose longevity allowed him to produce many wonderful, brightly colored pieces art that spanned different styles, movements and media.


Elementary-school children love color and appreciate any project that doesn't require their work to be exact or totally representational. This affords my students an avenue of expression that can be depicted in any manner the student chooses.

As Matisse got older and his vision started to fail, many of his most famous works were done with brightly colored paper cutouts that were organized into wonderfully balanced compositions in a very unique style. Matisse's work, Beasts of the Sea, is a perfect project for eager young children to follow a fairly loose format in creating an original version of Matisse's collage.

To begin this endeavor, I show my classes several reproductions of Matisse's works, including Beasts of the Sea, The Fish Bowl, The Circus and The Sadness of the King. I emphasize the idea that of his pieces depicted images that are very abstract, very colorful and pleasing to the eye.

I try to get the students to guess the subject matter of each print, eliciting a wide range of answers before the actual title/subject matter is revealed. Invariably, each respondent takes a guess that isn't quite accurate, but they have a lot of fun with their responses and are somewhat surprised as to the real intent and subject of each piece. In addition to the discussion, the lesson now integrates the social studies curriculum into the art room, identifying France on a world map, the seven continents, the four oceans, the major directions on a compass and the route one would take going to and from France, the country of Matisse's origin.

Once finished with the discussion and geography, I allow each student the opportunity to select eight precut squares of construction paper, after they watch me use a glue stick in setting up two parallel rows of precut squares. (Each square is approximately four inches. …

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