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Henri Matisse Lesson

Here's a project you can do over the course of a day or several days while learning about the artist, Henri Matisse. This activity not only introduces an artist and art concepts, it can reinforce shape and color recognition and develop scissor skills. We also chose to make our art a rainbow to put in our window, joining with children around the world who are putting rainbows in their windows for other children to "find" during this Covid-19 time.

Henri Matisse was a French artist who lived from 1869 - 1954. In his early career he was known for his drawing and painting, but as an older man he was unable to continue his art in the same way and began experimenting with cutting colored paper into large shapes and arranging them into beautiful, cheerful collages. These cut outs will be the focus of our craft.


What you need:

  • white paper

  • paint and paintbrush (or even dab a dot or markers)

  • scissors

  • glue


Before starting this activity, talk with your child about Henri Matisse. There is a great book called "Henri's Scissors" I would recommend starting with this, as it is great for all ages. You can watch someone read this book on youtube HERE.

There are many other great videos for a variety of ages available on youtube, too. I've collected my favorites below:

2-6 year olds

Art with Mati and Dada - a cartoon about Matisse

4-8 year olds

Painting with Scissors (part 1) - a two part read aloud book

6-10 year olds

Drawing with Scissors - a longer, more in depth book read aloud

For everyone

Matisse at the Tate - a video of young kids enjoying a Matisse exhibit at the Tate museum

Ok - time to jump in! As you probably heard in one of the above videos, Matisse had his assistants paint paper into vibrant colors before he cut out his shapes. So that's what we did. I don't have paint on hands, so we used dab a dot markers and then the only paint brush we had on hand (a foam one) to "paint" our paper. Don't forget to protect your work surface - we used parchment paper. Knowing our ultimate artwork was to be a rainbow, we went with the classic rainbow colors.

Once dry, I handed my 4 year old some scissors and let him have at - my only instruction being to create different size snippets: small, medium, and large. He struggles with fine motor task, so I wanted it to be enjoyable and successful rather than frustrating. If you have a more skilled cutter you could draw various shapes for them to cut out or allow them to create shapes of their own. I was just pleased if he held the scissors properly. For they younger set you can let them experiment with cutting while you cut out specific shapes and work on recognizing and naming them.

Now that you have your shapes, it's time to glue them! I admit, I got a little overly involved in the arrangement - it was bringing me joy to make it pretty and he didn't seem to mind that I was the one deciding where they went on the paper, he was happy just to apply the glue and hand them over. Probably the better thing to do would be let your kid have full creative control... but hey, happy mom happy kids, amiright?

Voila - your work of art! Honestly, at the end of this little project I could see the appeal that Matisse frequently mentioned. "I am deeply contented, happy" - Henri Matisse

I'd love to see how your art turned out! Let me know below or tag @thismommakes on instagram!

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