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Scraps of paper? No, they're Matisse's last masterpiece

A CACHE of unfinished collages and cut-outs by Henri Matisse is to be revealed to the world for the first time, offering a tantalising glimpse of works that might have been created by one of the giants of 20th century art.

The collection of 1,000 pieces of paper emerged from the artist's family, who initially considered destroying them because they believed Matisse would not have wanted them seen in a raw state.


Henri Matisse himself destroyed many of his own art works. The material includes birds, petals, a circus elephant and geometrical patterns, which Matisse never had a chance to finish before his death. They have never been exhibited before.

The collection has been split evenly between two museums in northern and southern France, both dedicated to Matisse -- one in Cateau-Cambresis, his birthplace, the other in Nice, where he settled. Patrice Deparpe, curator of Cateau-Cambresis, said: "It's completely unique ... Nobody has seen it before."

Matisse, who died in 1954, is a founder of modern art who is famed for sensitivity to line and colour. He created some of his most original works well into his eighties. Never fully recovering from a cancer operation, many of his cut-outs were produced when he could not stand at an easel to paint. "The paper cut-out allows me to draw in the colour," he once said.

The family had two options, a friend explained -- "to destroy the whole thing, which (Matisse) probably would have wanted (or) ...put them in a very safe place.

"Fifty years have passed ... and they looked beautiful. It would be devastating to destroy them."

She added: "If Matisse was here, he would probably be p***ed off."