The story of the legendary painter’s adoption of paper cutouts as an expressive medium after illness made traditional painting physically impossible is told here through lively pen-and-watercolor sketches.
Nuanced modulation of color, brilliant hues to monochrome and back again, is skillfully implemented. After bright, watercolor scenes of him at work, an almost colorless spread depicts Matisse in his hospital bed. “There’s no color in here. You’d think I was dead. What a nightmare! Fetch my brushes! Fetch my paints!” exclaims the painter. Successive spreads show him generating color as he creates, reinforcing the fact that it was the artist’s desire to embellish and enhance his surroundings that inspired his innovative use of cut paper. His process of creating the cutouts and directing the positioning of them on the walls of his room is well-portrayed, leading up to the revelation that “I’ve made myself a garden to live in, a whole new life.” Like the snail he depicts, the painter slowly rolls in his wheelchair through the oasis he has created against all obstacles. The one obstacle to making this book truly successful is the limited selection of cutouts actually shown, either as copies or reproductions of Matisse originals; there’s no Jazz, no Swimming Pool.
The drama of the artist’s fulfillment of his creative desires through this direct medium is somewhat undercut by the paucity of the visual elements. (biographical note) (Picture book. 5-8)