This summer I had the opportunity to see a Henri Matisse exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts that combined their collection of his work along with a circulating exhibit from the Baltimore Museum of Art. I’ve always been a fan of Matisse. I particularly like his brightly colored portraits of women with lots of flowers. His impressionist style has a child-like quality that I think is fun and approachable. So this fall, I was pleased to see 2 new biographies on Matisse for primary students.
In The Iridescence of Birds: A Book about Henri Matisse by Patricia McLachlan we learn why Matisse was so fond of those bright colors in his paintings. As a young boy, Henri lived in a gloomy mill town in northern France. His mother introduced him to brightly colored fabrics from the mills as well as encouraged him to create nature paintings with the colorful paint she bought for him. I imagine it to be a challenge for an artist assigned to do illustrations for a biography about Matisse. But Hadley Hooper used a relief printing process to create the simple shapes giving the impression of Matisse’s work while putting her own spin on it. The pictures and the text work well together telling the story of a young boy growing up to be a famous painter who painted what he learned as a young boy. The last few pictures have both the boy and the adult artist together; the young Henri imagining his future while the adult Matisse remembering his past. (9781596439481. October 2014. Gr. K-2)
The other book out the fall is Matisse’s Garden by Samantha Friedman. This one concentrates on a later period when Matisse was older with waning health. I’ve read that this period is referred to as “painting with scissors”, in which Matisse cut bright, colorful shapes out of paper creating larger scale collages. In this story he starts with a cutout of a bird (perhaps an iridescent bird) and continues cutting out various botanical shapes until he has a complete garden covering his wall. The book includes foldout pages with some of Matisse’s cut-paper work. (9780870709104. October 2014. Gr. K-2)
Here are a couple other Matisse books for primary students worth mentioning.
- Henri’s Scissors by Jeannette Winter.
9781442464841. 2013. Gr. Ps-2
- Colorful Dreamer: The Story of Artist Henri Matisse by Marjorie Blain Parker.
9780803737587. 2012. GR. Ps-2