Matisse-Picasso mini zine

(Warning, long post with lots of photos)

In the ‘excitement’ of the terrible hail storm yesterday while we were at the National Gallery of Australia I forgot completely about my mini Matisse-Picasso zine.

For non-locals, our weeks of smoke filled skies were cleared by a tremendously damaging hail storm yesterday. Here is a video of what the rain sounded like as we walked around inside the National Gallery of Australia. I was too stunned to get my video happening to record the sound of the hail striking the roof, suffice to say it sounded like the sky was throwing boulders.

The paintings are by Hugh Ramsay an extremely talented, Scottish born Australian artist who died in 1906 from tuberculosis at age 28.

The road and forecourt of the National Gallery of Australia covered in hail the size of golf balls.

Anyway, we originally went to the gallery to make our second visit to the Matisse-Picasso exhibition. While waiting to go in I sat down at the art workshop space just outside the entrance to the exhibition and started making a little collage with the idea of using it to draw on. It then occurred to me that I could make a book out of it. I did this with the help of a short video on how to fold a piece of paper into a book (ah the benefits of the gallery free wi-fi).

This is the closest photo I have of the way the paper looked before turning it into the mini book. This is the reverse side where the painting names and dates are listed.

One of the advantages of making such a small book (5 cm x 7.5 cm or 2 x 3inches), is that all the sketches had to be small and fairly simple. This is the little book as it was at the gallery, (we are pencil only in the gallery).

Picasso, Head of a Boy, 1906: Matisse, Meditation (Portrait of Laurette), c.1916

Picasso, Woman with Tambourine, 1936.

Picasso, Still Life with Pitcher and Apples, 1919: Matisse, The Plaster Torso, 1919.

The front and back of my little zine. Matisse, The Abduction of Europa, 1929: Matisse, Nono Lebasque, 1909.

For better or worse I added colour to the zine when I got home.

I had a great time making this little zine, indeed it’s small size encouraged me to just have fun with the process. I did do some slightly larger sketches in another book, but I think this might become quite addictive.

PS the video that I used to make the book can be found here.

One more parting photo. This is the road outside the gallery strewn with shredded foliage. It looks sort of sylvan, but for knowing how damaged the trees were.


During August I read Hilary Spurling’s biography of Matisse, Matisse: The Life, (Penguin Books 2009, the cut down version not the two volume job). It’s taken time to work through it because alongside it I’ve had open my catalogue from the 1995 Matisse exhibition that toured Australia, so I could see more of the works that Spurling covers in her book.

The day I finished reading the book I went to the NGA and drew various elements from Oceania, the Sea. This work was inspired by Matisse’s visit to Tahiti in 1930, but remained unrealised until 1946 when he made the work as a paper cut out, which was subsequently printed on linen in 1948.

As I got rather carried away by drawing various elements of this work, (13 pages of drawings of which12 are double pages), subsequently painted in gouache, I’ve made some composite images of my efforts.


Spurling write’s about Matisse’s visit to Tahiti and the lagoon of Fakarava where Matisse

experimented with focus, depth and angle, staring down from above into the green floor of the lagoon, looking up from below at a watery ceiling opaque and wavery as medieval glass, plunging repeatedly between the two, schooling the retina to compare the different luminosities of sky and sea.“( p 401). 


The National Gallery of Australia also owns the companion piece, Oceania, the Sky. The NGA’s curator Lucinda Ward takes up the story.

When Zika Ascher visited Matisse in Paris in 1946, he found an assistant pinning cut-out paper shapes to the walls. Matisse, a virtual invalid since 1941, worked from bed and had adopted decoupage. Silhouettes of fish, birds, jellyfish and coral, the life of sea and sky, were arranged from dado to cornice on two adjacent walls, and the challenge was to translate this flimsy maquette into more durable form. The London-based textile designer worked to Matisse’s exacting standards. Linen was dyed to match the colour of the apartment walls—an off-white fashionable in the 1920s and 1930s, which had become, with the patina of time, a light beige. The shapes were printed using opaque white ink.”

I found a resonnance between the Matisse cut-outs and Kelly’s shadow drawings. Simplified forms, set against a plain background. I also found a similar response in the work of Branda Kesi’s Siechoutie – muddy bark, 2009, a stitched and painted bark cloth, that I also recorded on the same day.