In the Press | The Times Bricks and Mortar

Bring a burst of Matisse colour to your home

By Carol Lewis 

A new exhibition of the Modernist master’s vibrant cut-outs provides inspiration for brightening up dull interiors

If endless variations of white, grey and beige are making you feel a bit bland then break out with a burst of colour. Take inspiration from French artist Henri Matisse and fill your home with hues of deepest blue, vibrant reds and bright orange. Flavia Frigeri, the head curator of the forthcoming Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition at Tate Modern in London, says: “My suggestion would be to take Matisse’s lead and be bold. Stay away from neutral colours and mix audacious colours such as orange and bright blue. Great inspirational palettes for home decor are The Snail and the 20 plates from the Jazz books.

“Matisse is most well known for his bold and radical use of colour. He made a very pondered and careful selection of colours, mostly bright ones, and his assistants, under his direction, would apply the chosen colours on to sheets, which would then be stored ready for use. The cut-outs tend to be generally very colourful, but the one colour that really stands out is bright blue, which features heavily throughout his Blue Nudes series.”

Denise Phillips, wall art buyer at John Lewis, adds: “In his late sixties, when ill health first prevented Matisse from painting, he began to cut into painted paper with scissors to make drafts for a number of commissions. In time, Matisse chose cut-outs over painting.

“This technique may have been inspired by the silk weavers of Bohain-en-Vermandois, the region of northeastern France where Matisse was born. There weavers would visit one another’s studios, pinning pieces of paper to the fabrics hanging on the wall to share ideas on alterations and innovations. “We see similar techniques being used today with mood boards, and online on websites like Pinterest,” explains Phillips.

Matisse was not just inspired by weavers, he was an inspiration. “Mimosa”, a rug design discovered in the archives of British carpet manufacturer Brintons, was commissioned from Matisse in 1951. He had said of the bright red, yellow and purple design: “I want to recapture the freshness of vision which is characteristic of extreme youth; when all the world is new.”

Although the artist died three years later, he continues to be a source of inspiration for weavers and designers alike. Sonya Winner’s contemporary rug design “After Matisse” plays with the artist’s squares of colour to offer a new 25-colour take on The Snail.

The natural world was a strong theme in Matisse’s designs — think of the multicoloured fronds in The Sheaf. Leaves are a regular feature; it is no surprise, then, that when the design website Spoonflower held a competition to create textiles that might look at home in Matisse paintings the winner was a leaf motif by Ravynka: Polish designer Ewa Bursztyka.

“Matisse took inspiration from the natural world. Homeowners can do the same thing when looking for inspiration for their own interiors. Some of our most popular themes in recent years have been those that embraced the outdoors and replicated its colours,” says Phillips.

Matisse’s stated aim was to put “luxury within the reach of all”. Phillips believes that is more true today than ever with reproductions of major artworks readily available. “A picture you adore can change the personality of a room. It can be emotional and thought-provoking, but also it can add colour and warmth to your decor.”
From April 7 to 11 John Lewis is holding a series of free Design Insiders masterclasses at its Oxford Street store in London. These include Tate gallery historian and lecturer Richard Thomas talking about Matisse and the use of art in the home (

Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs is at Tate Modern, London SE1, from April 17 to September 7 ( 

Get the look: with Matisse

Brintons Mimosa rug by Matisse, from £500

After Matisse rug by Sonya Winner, from £595

Press Enquiry

Please keep me up-to-date with latest news