Matisse Cutouts for Kids

Yesterday was a bittersweet day for me, as it was my last day teaching art at Little Crafter’s school.  As many of you know, I’ve been filling in for the regular art teacher for the last six weeks while she’s been out on maternity leave, and I have really enjoyed working with the kids.  Each week, we talked about an particular artist and style, then imitated that style with a fun hands-on project.  For the final lesson, I decided to have the kids learn about Henri Matisse.  I taught them about his style, Fauvism, where he painted ordinary things with colors you wouldn’t expect, and then we talked about the cutouts he experimented with later in his life.  Matisse would cut shapes from colored paper, then glue them together to form collages, like this well-known one titled Icarus.

Source: The Metropolitan Museum of Art Online

After we looked at Matisse’s work, I turned the students loose to create their own cutout masterpieces in that same style.  Each child chose a colored background, then cut out whatever type of shapes they wanted to create a picture.  This project requires very little prep and just a few basic supplies that I bet you already have at home.

– colored paper
– scissors
– pencil
– Elmer’s glue stick

Some of the kids decided to model their pictures after Icarus and use the silhouette of a person.  This little girl did a self-portrait {those are pigtails} with hearts.


Little Crafter chose to create blue silhouettes of our family on a purple background.  Don’t you love my pencil-shaped hubby, and giant triangle-me?!


Other students decided to swap out the person for an animal!  This little girl cut out her cat.  I also love the paint palate she made to represent her enjoyment of art!


It’s also fun to combine animals with abstract shapes!


Some students decided to go with landscapes instead and created trees, mountains, and other natural elements.  More than one of them also came up with the idea of adding a 3-D element to their picture, like this book that opens.


And, still others chose to represent different things, like this student who created fire…


…and this one, who made a tornado.


I really wish I’d been able to photograph many more of the projects {these were all from the first of six classes} so you could see things like the elaborate Star Wars scene, Superman, and other amazing things the older kids came up with.  I did this same project with all of the students, everyone from ages 5-14.  And you know what?  All of them loved it.  All of them were engaged, all of them were incredibly creative.  We also talked about one of my favorite art quotes ever, which comes from Henri Matisse.  Creativity takes courage. 

It was a really fun lesson and I’m definitely thinking about having LC make some more cutouts on rainy days this summer when we’re looking for something to do!  If you’d like to see the other things we did in Art class, check out these posts:

Pointillism Bookmarks in the style of Georges Seurat
Button Circle Art in the style of Wassily Kandinsky
Clay Surrealist Sculptures in the style of Salvador Dalí

Fun Fact: Did you know Matisse was originally a law clerk?  He didn’t experiment with art until he got appendicitis and his mom bought him some paints and brushes so he’d have something to do while he recovered.  Every cloud has a silver lining, and that was his…if he’d never gotten appendicitis, the world would never have had his art!


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