Matisse Inspired Collaborative Cut Out Collage

In this lesson students will work in small groups to create a 3′ x 6′ mini wall murals.  Students will work together using saturated colors, organic shapes, and positive and space to create a vibrant piece of art with lots of visual interest.



Henri Matisse. Woman with a Hat, 1905. San Fra...

Henri Matisse was a French artist known mainly for his paintings and use of color.  He didn’t begin his paper cut out collages until the last fifteen years of his life, after having a surgery that bound him to a wheel chair.  He called this process “painting with scissors”.  These paper cut outs were typically very large, and he involved his colleagues in his work. Learn more about Matisse.


Color refers to wavelengths of light.  Characteristics of color include the hue, value (lightness/darkness), intensity (saturation/amount of pigment), and temperature (warm/cool).  This lesson focuses on color saturation.  Saturation refers to the brightness or dullness of colors.  An easy way to think about color saturation is to imagine adding gray to a color.  What would happen?  The more gray a color seems to have, the duller it will appear, and the less saturated it is.  The more pure a color is the more vibrant, intense, or saturated it is.Color Saturation

Shape & Space

Show students the reproductions of Polynesia, the Sea and Panel with Mask by Henri Matisse.

These are both examples of his collage work.  He used bright colors, repetition of shape and color, and organic shapes to create his images.  Organic, or free form, shapes are shapes that are irregular, not geometric.  They are like shapes you would find in nature.

Matisse also used the negative and positive shapes when he cut out designs.  This means he might cut a squiggle out of a piece of paper, use the squiggle (positive shape) in his collage, and use the paper he cut the squiggle out of (negative shape) somewhere else in his collage.


  • 8 pre-cut 3′ x 4-5′ lengths of butcher paper, various vibrant colors (doesn’t need to be exact)
  • 70 pieces of white, black, and other vibrant colored construction paper
  • “Matisse” scrap box
  • glue sticks (do not pass this out in the beginning)
  • scissors (should be in the classroom)


  1. Another artist's piece inspired by Matisse Cut Outs from Art Murals For Kids

    Another artist’s piece inspired by Matisse Cut Outs from Art Murals For Kids

    Have the students push their tables together in sets of two.

  2. Ask the students, if Matisse was in a wheel chair, how did he create the large pieces of art?  He worked with others, of course!  Have the students form small groups of 4-5.  Tell them to discuss who will do what.  Some will need to cut the organic shapes, some will need to cut the background shapes, a few people will need to arrange the composition, someone will  need to work on the border, a few people will need to glue and so on.
  3. Start cutting.  Remind them they can use both the positive and the negative shapes.  Remind them they are creating a large scale project and to THINK BIG!  Students may also use scraps from the “Matisse Scrap Bin”.
  4. Place the pieces in various positions until they get a composition they are happy with.  They should be talking this out with each other.  DO NOT PASS OUT ANY GLUE UNTIL YOU HAVE SEEN THE FINISHED COMPOSITION.
  5. Once they have shown you a quality, completed design, they can start gluing.  To glue down the composition, direct the students to pick up one piece at a time and glue it, leaving all the others in place.  DO NOT move all the pieces off the paper.
  6. Write all their names on the back with pencil and title the piece.
  7. Stress that they should be working to create a good quality piece of art and to take their time.  These pieces will be on display with their names on them in our art gallery for Open House

When all is said in done, you will have scraps.  Place them in the bin labeled “Matisse Scraps” in the TAP room so other classes can make use of them.


Once the pieces are completely dry–there is NO WET GLUE EXPOSED.  Roll the pieces up and store them for Open House Display.

Labeling:  For each piece, have the students sign the bottom right hand corner.


One thought on “Matisse Inspired Collaborative Cut Out Collage

  1. I scaled back the butcher paper to 4-5′ lengths and found that having each group start with 10 pieces of colored construction paper worked well.

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