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The Snail

Henri Matisse

The Snail

Henri Matisse
  • Original Title: L'escargot
  • Date: 1953
  • Style: Abstract Art, Color Field Painting
  • Genre: abstract
  • Media: gouache, paper
  • Dimensions: 286 x 287 cm

The Snail (L'escargot) is a collage by Henri Matisse. The work was created from summer 1952 to early 1953. It is pigmented with gouache on paper, cut and pasted onto a base layer of white paper measuring 9'43⁄4" × 9' 5" (287 × 288 cm). The piece is in the Tate Gallery collection in London. It consists of a number of colored shapes arranged in a spiral pattern, as suggested by the title. Matisse first drew the snail, then used the colored paper to interpret it. The composition pairs complementary colors: Matisse gave the work the alternative title La Composition Chromatique (chromatic composition). From the early-to-mid-1940s Matisse was in increasingly poor health, and was suffering from arthritis. Eventually by 1950 he stopped painting in favor of gouaches découpées, paper cutouts. The Snail is a major example of this final body of works. Color field painters and minimalists such as Ellsworth Kelly, Alma Thomas or Kenneth Noland have continued in many ways the reduction to color done by Matisse in later works, among which The Snail can be considered the closest to contemporary abstract art.

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