The Snail Review: Masterpiece or primary school art project?

I can’t claim to be well informed about art but you can’t help but wonder what the big deal is about colored chunks of paper.


The Snail by Matisse
The Snail on display in the Tate Gallery


Staring deeply into the pigmented paper upon which sits 12 roughly cuts out pieces of colored paper, the edges adorned by an uneven orange border. All throughout wondering, “What is this, why is this famous.” I don’t get it, perhaps I never will. What I will say is that considering this comes from an artist who gave us true masterpieces such as “Woman Reading” and “The Dance”, it’s hard to see how this can even be mentioned in the same breadth.


Matisse moved from painting to what became known as gouaches decoupees such as The Snail in the 1950. Arthritis had confined him to his bed where his assistants carried on his work under Matisse’s instructions. The Snail was created in 1953 just one year before Matisse’s death.


There is not doubt there is artistic value somewhere in The Snail, the hard part is not acknowledging that, rather trying to work out what and where exactly it is. The more I stare at it, the more I get lost trying to work this out. Perhaps that is the point, staring so deeply into that you mind your own meaning within the brightly colored paper.