Henri Matisse and Hans Arp

I had been using the process of painting sheets of paper in primary colours using acrylic paint then cutting shapes out and sticking them on another piece of paper. As I repeated this process I changed the colours to pastel tones of the primary colours and became more and more concerned with how well the shapes fit together. Whilst this resulted in a very aesthetically pleasing outcome I didn’t like how much time I was spending on making sure the shapes fitted together.

After doing some research I realised that Henri Matisse used a very similar technique when he wasn’t able to paint due to ill health. One main difference was that he used gouache and not acrylic. Matisse also used a wide variety of bright colours and often created his collages in a large scale.

Matisse at work


‘The Snail’ (1953) Henri Matisse

Matisse was very particular in where the shapes were placed and concentrated on creating a composition he was happy with. In contrast Arp experimented with allowing ‘The laws of chance’ to decide where he placed roughly torn squares of paper onto a larger sheet of paper. However when you look at the end result it is hard to believe that the squares just ‘happened’ to land so evenly spaced out within the frame.


‘Collage with squares arranged according to the laws of chance’ Hans Arp (1916)
My attempt at applying both Matisse and Arp’s techniques

Although I did stick the shapes wherever they happen to fall I did have to re drop them if they fell off the page or upside down. As I was doing this I realised it can never really be down to just chance as the person dropping the squares will have an idea of where they would like the shape to go and you can manipulate this to a certain extent depending on where you drop it from.