Scraps of paper? No, they're Matisse's last masterpiece

Previously unseen cut-outs by father of modern art donated to museums by his family

A cache of unfinished collages and cut-outs by Henri Matisse is to be revealed to the world for the first time, offering a tantalising glimpse of works that might have been created by one of the giants of 20th century art.

The collection of 1,000 pieces of paper emerged from the artist's family, who initially considered destroying them because they believed Matisse would not have wanted them seen in a raw state of creativity.

Henri Matisse himself destroyed many of his own art works.

The material includes birds, petals, a circus elephant and geometrical patterns, which Matisse never had a chance to shape into finished compositions before his death. They have never been exhibited and art historians were unaware of their existence.

The collection has been split evenly between two museums in northern and southern France, both dedicated to Matisse – one in Cateau-Cambrésis, his birthplace, the other in Nice, where he settled. Patrice Deparpe, curator of Cateau-Cambrésis, said: "It's completely unique ... Nobody has seen it before."

Matisse, who died in 1954, is a founder of modern art who is famed for sensitivity to line and colour. He created some of his most original works well into his eighties. Never fully recovering from a cancer operation, many of his cut-outs – drawings with scissors – were produced when he could not stand at an easel to paint. "The paper cut-out allows me to draw in the colour," he once said.

Until now, the material had remained with his family. A friend, who declined to be named, emphasised that these are not works in their own right: "We knew they were there but they were in a big package that had not been opened," the friend said.

The family had two options, she explained – "to destroy the whole thing, which (Matisse) probably would have wanted (or) ...put them in a very safe place ... Fifty years have passed ... and they looked beautiful. It would be devastating to destroy them."

She added: "If Matisse was here, he would probably be pissed off. He would say that, either ... keep them and use them for something or... they have to be destroyed." For that reason, she said, the donation of the art to both museums is "on condition that they will never be moved from there".

Patrice Deparpe said: "Our museum was founded by Matisse himself in 1952. He made a very big gift of 89 paintings, drawings and sculpture. The family have [since] given works and documents ... We have a covered market near the museum which we have just bought. We are going to expand the museum and show the paper cut-outs."

Matisse's great-grandson, Georges, sent photographs to The Independent, but declined to make any comment.

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Arts and Entertainment

books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power